Following the announcement earlier this year that Eagle County was closing its fairgrounds after the winter season to truck parking, the Colorado Department of Transportation has been frantically working to finish an alternative site for truckers to park before bad weather hits.
CDOT is opening bids on Thursday, Sept. 11, for 60 truck parking spaces on a paved lot on 7.3 acres of land it owns at the northwest Interstate 70 ramp at Exit 133 in Dotsero, CO.
Peter Kozinski, I-70 mountain corridor manager for CDOT, told Land Line on Wednesday, Sept. 10, that $2.3 million has been budgeted for this initial plan. He said this site is just the first phase of many scheduled for truck parking in the area. Additional overflow space is designated on the frontage road between Dotsero and Gypsum.
“The site must be open and operational by the end of the year in anticipation for the winter season,” Kozinski said.
Even though the fairgrounds have posted signs stating the parking lot is “permanently closed starting July 25,” Kozinski said they have worked out a deal with the county that will allow trucks to park there until the CDOT site is open.
“Historically, this has been a win-win situation for both of us. But Eagle County has decided they want to redevelop the site and make it a money-making enterprise, and asked us to please find another site,” he said.
He said CDOT has requested approximately $15 million for the various truck parking phases it has planned and that more spaces will be added as more money becomes available for the projects.
“Ultimately, we anticipate that we will need upward of 300 spaces for truck parking,” he said.
Kozinski said there is an urgent need to get the site built and open before severe weather hits the area because there’s really nowhere for trucks to go after they hit that section of I-70.
The Vail Pass was closed at least 46 times during the past winter season, according to Kozinski.
“Once they are on I-70, they are going to push as far to the closure as possible, and that’s why we’re trying to make this site as large and as functional as possible,” he said.
Waste facilities, lavatories and lighting will be available onsite, but no food providers will be there. However, Kozinski said CDOT is working with people who have property surrounding the site to see if they are interested in providing food amenities.
CDOT is also working with the American Red Cross to develop emergency procedures to provide aid to truckers when there is a closure of the Vail Pass for more than three hours. He said most truckers have enough provisions to last them for a few hours, but after that time, they are going to start running out of food and water.
“So anytime we’re envisioning a closure of the Vail Pass beyond three hours, we’ll start coordinating emergency procedures with the Red Cross,” he said. “We’re not going to leave these guys out there high and dry by any means.”
– By Clarissa Kell-Holland, staff writer