PI Editorial: Glenwood Canyon closures offer no easy solutions, but doing better is possible

Post Independent Editorial Board

There are a lot of reasons to love Glenwood Springs, but canyon closures aren’t on that list.

While our community — and region, given just how many people rely on the canyon for commerce and vacation — was blessed with a relatively unremarkable summer season through Glenwood Canyon, this winter has been anything but.

In January, the canyon was fully or partially closed six times for crashes involving semi trucks. This particular moment feels like it would be easy to blame truckers, but that seems to miss the bigger picture. There are indeed truck drivers who choose to speed or otherwise drive unsafely through the canyon, but they’re not the sole cause of our canyon woes.

Outside of related factors — such as our reliance on Amazon and other companies to get us exactly what we want in one weeks’ time or less — it’s also true that truck drivers are subject to the same hazards all of us are on the road: Aggressive motorists, weather hazards, mechanical failure, terrible Google maps directions and more can happen to anyone. It’s just that the consequences are higher when you’re hauling 30,000 pounds in freight.

In our thinking, the Colorado Department of Transportation has two main questions to answer: how to help everyone become safer drivers through the canyon and how to reduce the chances of a semi-truck crash forcing an hours-long closure.

Neither question has a simple answer, but we truly believe that CDOT can help alleviate both. While some might advocate for stronger traffic enforcement through the canyon, the reality is there are very few places where a law-enforcement officer could safely pull a motorist over. The risk to both officers and the greater public is too great to rely simply on human enforcement.

One possible solution that would help reduce speeding altogether through the canyon? Traffic cameras — they’ve been employed elsewhere in Colorado to great effect and could be a helpful tool in making sure all drivers are more likely to follow the variable speed limits through Glenwood Canyon.

And for semi-trucks, CDOT could also consider keeping the chain requirement in effect on Interstate 70 through the canyon. Currently, trucks are allowed to unchain at Dotsero. Extending the chain law to Glenwood Springs or even through South Canyon to New Castle might require some additional truck pullovers to be built, but it would certainly help during adverse weather. Chains also have the secondary effect of requiring a reduced travel speed, which would also help reduce the risk of crashing.

It’s likely we will never completely mitigate the travel bottleneck Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon poses, but we are hopeful that CDOT can come up with solutions to make the canyon both safer and more reliable regardless of winter weather.

The Post Independent editorial board members are Publisher Peter Baumann, Managing Editor/Senior Reporter John Stroud and community representatives Mark Fishbein and Danielle Becker.

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