Highway crews staying up to keep up
Post Independent staff
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – A major snowstorm that swept through the area Monday and today has kept Colorado Department of Transportation highway maintenance crews busy around the clock.
“With a storm like this, we have about half of our crewmen out for a 12-hour shift, and the other half out for the other 12 hours,” CDOT spokesperson Nancy Shanks said in relation to the Glenwood Springs maintenance area, which includes Glenwood Springs, Rifle, Carbondale and Aspen.
“At any given time we have nearly 20 plow drivers out there,” she said. “It depends how long the storm lasts how long we will keep that up.”
Crews working Highway 82 this morning concentrated on the upvalley lanes to accommodate rush-hour commuter traffic, most of which is headed toward Aspen, she Aspen.
However, that meant the down-valley (westbound) lanes were limited to one plowed lane for a period of time until crews could work their way back toward Glenwood Springs, she said.
“Things are getting fairly well cleared now,” she said around 1 p.m. “But the winds have picked up, especially between mile markers 6 and 18, and the snow is piling up as quickly as crews can plow it.”
State Highway 133 over McClure Pass between Carbondale and Paonia had received a total of 28 inches of snow since the snow began Monday, and continuing into Tuesday afternoon, Shanks said.
“We’re fairly well staffed, but we are down to one crewman on McClure Pass,” she said.
Shanks said the pass remained open, but chain laws were in effect for commercial vehicles traveling over McClure.
“We have been able to keep it open, and the avalanche danger remains low,” she said.
The situation was more serious in the southwest part of the state, where four mountain passes were closed, including Wolf Creek Pass on U.S. 160 and Red Mountain, Molas and Coal Bank passes on U.S. 550 between Ouray and Durango.
“We have crews working from the north and from the south, doing avalanch control and clearing snow until they meet somewhere in the middle,” Shanks said of the work on U.S. 550. “Right now, crews are hoping to get all the highways in that area open by this evening.”
The Grand Junction area also received between 10 and 12 inches of snow overnight, resulting in school and government office closures throughout Mesa County. The Grand Valley Transit bus system in Grand Junction also shut down for the day.
“Morning commuters should expect snowpack on I-70 between Rifle and Glenwood Canyon and on Highway 82 in morning,” Shanks said. “Even areas that don’t have snowpack may be iced over in the morning, especially ramps and bridges.”
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