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Colorado State Publications Blog

Time Machine Tuesday: Constructing Vail Pass

Colorado’s ski industry depends on transportation along I-70. What would your drive to the slopes be like if it weren’t for Vail Pass?

Charles D. “Charley” Vail was the visionary behind the pass, and it – along with the town and ski area – bears his name. Director of the state’s Department of Highways from 1931 to 1945, Vail proposed the route, but construction didn’t start until 1975, thirty years after Vail’s death. Construction took three years, and the result is one of Colorado’s engineering marvels.

According to a local magazine, Vail Pass was built with “the first bridge span in the country built with pre-cast concrete (with sections ferried from Denver), erosion-resistant landscaping (including a unique retaining wall designed by architects from Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West), the state’s first separated bicycle path over a mountain pass, and the first solar-heated rest area in Colorado.”

Our library collection includes a number of Highway Department documents concerning the construction of Vail Pass, and the various engineering challenges they faced. Some of these resources have been digitized by our library, including:

Also, a report on the solar-heated rest area is available for checkout from our library, as is a DVD of a 1978 promotional video, Vail Pass: A Highway in Harmony with its Environment.

Before-and-after aerials of Vail Pass, from I-70 in a Mountain Environment (1978)
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Colorado State Publications Blog

Chain Laws

A bill being heard in the legislature today could change chain laws for mountain driving, and should this law pass, drivers will need to be aware of the new requirements.  House Bill 15-1173, which is being heard in the House on Second Reading today, would require ALL vehicles traveling on the I-70 Mountain Corridor during wintertime to carry traction equipment.  According to the bill summary,

The bill requires all motor vehicles driving on interstate 70 between Morrison and Dotsero during the snowy season to:

  • Have tires with the mountain-snowflake symbol and a tread depth of 1/8 inch; or
  • Have tires with the M+S or M/S symbol and a tread depth of 1/8 inch;
  • Carry tire chains or an equivalent traction device.

The penalties for a violation are a $100 fine and $32 surcharge. The department of transportation is instructed to erect signs at appropriate places, notifying the public of this requirement. The bill also rewrites the chain law to clarify its provisions.

For information on Colorado’s chain laws as they stand today, head to the Colorado Department of Transportation’s Travel Center webpage.  Here you will find information sheets on chain laws for commercial vehicles (in the Commercial Vehicles box) and passenger/small commercial vehicles (under the heading Other Information, on the right).  This website also includes information on road conditions; alternative transportation methods; lane closures, construction info, and cone zones; maps of rest areas and welcome centers; travel alerts; tourism; tolling; tunnel information; express lanes; trucker information; and much more.

Photo courtesy CDOT

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Colorado State Publications Blog

I-70 Peak Period Shoulder Lane

Tired of being stuck in traffic on I-70 as you head home from the mountains?  The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) has been working on constructing an eastbound I-70 peak period shoulder lane that should help ease some of the congestion along the interstate as skiers, trucks, and others make their way toward Denver.  Construction of the lane is supposed to be completed this month.  For more information on the construction, including a project schedule, public meeting information, videos, and project benefits, see CDOT’s project webpage.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

I-70 East Project

Last week the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) unveiled a new website “to educate and engage the public about changes in transportation financing, partnerships and project delivery, and important public engagement opportunities specific to these elements.  The tool also provides an update on the proposed I-70 East project, from I-25 to Tower Road,” according to CDOT’s June 24 press release.  The site includes interactive features such as public opinion polls and videos to increase the public’s awareness of and involvement in the transportation planning process, particularly in regards to the use of express (toll) lanes.  The I-70 East project is slated to employ the use of express lanes to help move traffic.

You can learn more about the I-70 project at CDOT’s I-70 East project website.  Here you can find the Environmental Impact Statement as well as a project schedule, map, public meetings and community outreach, a discussion of possible alternatives to CDOT’s proposed project plan.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

I-70 Mountain Corridor

As the ski season approaches, the problem of congestion along I-70 again becomes a hot topic.  In 2011, the Colorado State Legislature passed HB11-1210, requiring the Colorado Dept. of Transportation (CDOT) to study possible solutions for I-70 traffic and mobility.  The resulting study has recently been cataloged by our library:  Report Pursuant to HB 11-1210, Recommendations Regarding Short Term Mobility Solutions Along the I-70 Mountain Corridor.  Some additional state publications that discuss this topic include:

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Ike Liked Colorado

So far, no U.S. President has hailed from Colorado, but one of the first ladies has – Mamie Eisenhower.  As a result, the President who spent the most time in our state was Dwight D. Eisenhower; he even established a “Summer White House” at Lowry Air Base during his presidency.  It was on this day 57 years ago, September 24, 1955, that Eisenhower suffered a heart attack while visiting Colorado.  According to Colorado:  A History of the Centennial State (University Press of Colorado, 2005), which you can check out from our library, Ike’s heart attack came after eating a hamburger and playing twenty-seven holes of golf! 
Eisenhower’s Colorado legacy also extends to transportation.  Colorado describes how one of his fishing buddies, a developer, helped convince the President to support the construction of I-70 running east-west through Colorado.  As a result, the Eisenhower Tunnel was named for him.  (A bit of trivia:  Only the westbound tunnel is the Eisenhower Memorial Tunnel; the eastbound tunnel is the Johnson Memorial Tunnel, named for Colorado Governor and U.S. Senator Edwin C. Johnson.)  Learn more about the Eisenhower/Johnson tunnels on the Colorado Department of Transportation’s website, which includes a behind-the-scenes photo tour of the operation of the tunnels. 
Eisenhower/Johnson Tunnels.  Courtesy CDOT.
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Colorado State Publications Blog

I-70 Twin Tunnels

Today the Colorado Transportation Commission approved $60 million to widen the eastbound tunnel of the I-70 “twin tunnels” in Clear Creek County. The project will add a third lane to the eastbound tunnel to ease congestion. For more information on what this upcoming construction means for you, visit the Colorado Dept. of Transportation (CDOT)’s project website. Here you will find documents and analysis, a timeline, environmental impact statements and records of decision, news releases, and updates on the project. CDOT has just tweeted that “we have at least [a] year of environmental study before construction. Will try to make it as painless as possible!” Keep checking the CDOT website for construction delays on highways throughout Colorado.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

I-70 Mountain Corridor Record of Decision

In a recent announcement from the Colorado Dept. of Transportation (CDOT), “On June 16, 2011, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) signed the Record of Decision approving the Preferred Alternative for the I-70 Mountain Corridor Programatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS). The FHWA approval marks the end of nearly 20 years of study and discussions about improvements for the I-70 Mountain Corridor.” They continue, “The recent decision approves a broad (Tier 1) program of transit, highway, safety, and other improvements on the 144-mile route between Glenwood Springs and the western edge of the Denver metropolitan area. Implementing the approved improvements will increase capacity, improve accessibility and mobility, and decrease congestion along the Corridor. The decision provides a framework for implementation of specific projects in the Corridor as funding allows.”

You can view a copy of the Record of Decision for Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement, produced by CDOT, in our library.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

I-70 closed for Rockfall Mitigation

Today I-70 will be closed between Empire and Silverthorne for rockfall mitigation in the Georgetown area. There is a large, unstable cluster of boulders above the highway that will be removed. More information about the closure is available on the Colorado Department of Transportation website.

If you are curious about rockfall and why it happens, a great place to start is “Rockfall in Colorado” an issue of RockTalk from the Colorado Geological Survey. It has basic information on rockfalls and how rockfall events can be mitigated or avoided.

If you are more interested in the geological details and rockfall risk assessment, check out “Modification and Statistical Analysis of the Colorado Rockfall Hazard Rating System.” This report details a fascinating study conducted by the Colorado Department of Transportation, that analyzes the geological structures around Colorado, and ranks them based on the likelihood of potential rockfall.

The Colorado Geological Survey’s rockfall website is another useful source of information.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Glenwood Canyon

Glenwood Canyon has been in the news lately due to a massive rockfall that closed I-70. (See Samantha’s posting below for information on rockfalls). Glenwood Canyon has been hailed as a remarkable feat of engineering, and is a gorgeous drive, too. Our library has a great deal of information on the building of the highway through the canyon, including the videos Glenwood Canyon: Ancient Treasure, Modern Marvel and Glenwood Canyon: Mastering Engineering and Environment in the Colorado Rockies. We also have numerous technical reports dealing with the construction project, including design concept studies and environmental impact assessments. To find these reports, search our web catalog using the keyword “Glenwood Canyon.”

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Rockfall

The recent closure of I-70 due to a huge rockfall in Glenwood Canyon made me curious to see what information I could find on landslides and rockfalls from Colorado state agencies. A great place to start is “Rockfall in Colorado” an issue of RockTalk from the Colorado Geological Survey. It has basic information on rockfalls, why they happen, and how rockfall events can be mitigated or avoided.

If you are more interested in the geological details and rockfall risk assessment, check out “Modification and Statistical Analysis of the Colorado Rockfall Hazard Rating System.” This report details a fascinating study conducted by the Colorado Department of Transportation, that analyzes the geological structures around Colorado, and ranks them based on the likelihood of potential rockfall.

Another useful source of information is the Colorado Geological Survey’s rockfall website.

We have many other publications on this topic in the State Publications Library collection. Just search our catalog using the keyword “rockfall” or “landslide” for a list of titles.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

I-70 Wildlife Watch

The Colorado Department of Transportation, Colorado Division of Wildlife, Colorado State Patrol, and other partners have just launched a new website, www.I-70wildlifewatch.org. I-70 Wildlife Watch is a website where motorists can log in and report wildlife sightings along the interstate. Then, other motorists can visit the site prior to making their trip and view the interactive map to find out where along the highway to use extra caution. The website is designed to help both people and animals by reducing the number of vehicle-wildlife crashes.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Planning the West Corridor of I-70

News sources are reporting that talks and meetings have begun regarding the future of I-70’s western corridor, regarding whether rail lines or highway widening (or both) are the answer to the heavy congestion along the interstate, particularly in Summit and Clear Creek counties. The CDOT-sponsored website, http://www.i70mtncorridor.com/, has a wealth of information on the planning. Also, in our library collection, we have the Urban Maglev Technology Development Program Final Report, which was recently published by CDOT; and various planning documents for I-70’s earlier planning stages, dating back to 1971. We also have the Colorado Rail Study and other regional transportation documents. Search our library catalog for more I-70 and CDOT publications and reports.

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Colorado State Publications Blog

Rockfall and Landslides

If you drive up into the mountains or through the canyons, you may notice signs that say “Watch for falling rocks.” We have recently received a CD with a lot of interesting reports on the geology, geologic hazards and history along the I-70 corridor (which you might not guess from the title): “Field Trips” from the 1st North American Landslide Conference, June 2007. There are pictures and diagrams showing weak areas in the slopes and sections with landslide potential. The reports include geologic maps, and discuss the formations in the area. Also included is a paper on Colorado Wine Country, how the geology, soils and climate affect the wines in the region. The CD is a special publication from the Colorado Geological Survey. It was distributed to our state depository libraries, and is also available to check out from the Colorado State Publications Library.