The Colorado DOT plans to hold hazmat trucks a little longer at the Eisenhower Tunnel during specific conditions. A spokeswoman says hazmat haulers will be held four hours instead of the usual one hour on Sunday afternoons, but only when Loveland Pass is closed and Interstate 70 is congested with ski resort traffic.
For 20 years, CDOT has metered traffic through the Eisenhower Tunnel to maintain emergency access and monitor vehicle emissions. Hazmat trucks are held back to be escorted through at the top of each hour. A typical hazmat escort disrupts traffic for 15 minutes.
From here on out, whenever Loveland Pass on U.S. 6 is closed due to snow or avalanche concerns, the DOT plans to hold eastbound hazmat trucks for four hours, from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., on Sunday afternoons, and westbound hazmat trucks for two hours on Saturday and Sunday mornings.
CDOT public relations director Stacey Stegman says traffic congestion is the prime motivator for the change. She says the disruption for truckers will be minimal as Loveland Pass is closed about 20 times per year.
“The chance of this actually occurring, and them being held, is very, very slim,” Stegman told “Land Line Now.”
“It would have to be when Loveland Pass is closed on that particular day in that particular time period.”
Stegman says truckers hauling hazardous materials should plan accordingly if their trip takes them over – or under – the Continental Divide on weekends.
“There’s at least 20 hours that they could make their deliveries, and we want them to hopefully plan for that,” she said.
But a four-hour detention could quadruple the number of hazmat trucks in the queue, and some say that opens a new can of worms. Stegman admits the agency has not yet designated a specific area for the extra trucks to queue up.
“I’m not entirely sure what we’ve worked out,” she said. “We’ve been talking to groups, trying to get their input on what we can do to make it as easy as possible and figure out where we have the storage to be able to do it at those particular times.”
Getting traffic back up to speed following the hazmat escort could take up to an hour, she adds.
“By the time we stop traffic to let the trucks go through, it takes 45 minutes to an hour to recover and get traffic flowing again,” she said. “Just stopping during those peak times because traffic is so heavy means we are causing 45-minute-to-one-hour delays for vehicles.”
“Land Line Now” Staff Reporter Reed Black contributed to this story.
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