Colorado town steps up freeway-noise enforcement

| 4/27/2004

Officials in Vail, CO, recently announced they would step up enforcement along the portion of I-70 that runs through the city. The effort was billed as a campaign to reduce noise on the stretch of interstate, but at least one council member said it was targeted at tractor-trailers.

Town officials have increased police funding, allowing officers to patrol the highway for drivers exceeding the 65 mph speed limit.

“We are addressing noise and speed and use of Jake brakes,” councilman Dick Cleveland told the Vail Trail. “The goal is to slow traffic down. When you see a cop don’t you slow down?”

Cleveland said the stepped-up enforcement is aimed at semi-trucks. He told the newspaper one semi makes the noise of 33 passenger vehicles.

“If we can slow them, that’s a big start,” he said.

In addition to speed enforcement, officers will enforce the town’s noise ordinance and muffler law. Officers will use sound meters to determine whether or not vehicles are in violation.

Town officials also have authorized a $90,000 consulting contract to monitor noise levels on the interstate and develop a noise-mitigation plan for the highway.

To make interstate travelers feel a bit more cheerful about the increased enforcement, town officials have devised an unorthodox strategy to ease drivers into the initial patrolling phase. Those who are pulled over for speeding within the first three months will receive a warning – with the exception of excessive speeders – and entry into a drawing to win a chance to drive a 600-horsepower NASCAR-style race car July 17 at Pikes Peak International Raceway near Colorado Springs.

“I think it’s a little odd,” Cleveland said. “It’s something we may need to talk about.”

Late in 2003, the town considered an ordinance that would have outlawed the use of engine brakes within city limits. The ordinance would have fined truck drivers up to $999 for using engine-compression braking systems within town limits, including mountainous portions of I-70, according to local media.

The ordinance, which did not pass, would have amended the town code, making it unlawful to use a "dynamic braking device" on any motor vehicle on I-70 between East Vail and Dowd Junction "except for the aversion of immediate and imminent danger."

Councilman Greg Moffet, who lives within about 100 feet of the interstate's eastbound lanes, was a vocal supporter of the proposal. According to the Vail Daily, Moffet appeared so determined to ban the use of such braking systems he even suggested removing the phrase about averting "immediate and imminent danger," calling truckers who must engage their engine brakes careless.

"They've got brakes, right?" he said at that time. "If their brakes are smoking, they're driving carelessly."

Diana Donovan, who with fellow council member Cleveland opposed the measure, called the ordinance "irresponsible," "immature" and "foolish."

"It's a safety issue," she said. "This is unenforceable, and it accomplishes nothing."