“There’s been some history of rollovers and other types of accidents,” said Frank Hempen Jr., a senior civil engineer in the Loveland Public Works Department.
Hempen oversaw the reconfiguration of Interstate 25 and Highway 34 that was completed last June 28. An average of 40 crashes per year were reported within half a mile of the interchange between 2006 and 2010, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation.
In an email to CBS4, Colorado Department of Transportation spokeswoman Stacey Stegman wrote, “Mostly property damage, no fatals.”
Until now. Gary Agee, 52, was killed when his tanker flipped and caught fire Sunday night.
“I was saddened by that of course and upset about it,” Hempen said.
Agee was employed by Petroleum Transportation of Greeley. According to the Colorado State Patrol, his tanker was exiting northbound on I-25 and headed east on Highway 34 at the time of the accident. Preliminary investigation indicates the truck may have been traveling too fast in the curve according to CSP.
Hempen says that corner of the interchange was reworked to avoid dangerous merges. Drivers now encounter speed reduction signs before entering a protected right turn heading to a long acceleration lane. But is the curve safe for a fully loaded gasoline tanker coming off an interstate?
“The answer to that is yes, we went through a very rigorous design process,” explained Hempen.
Hempen says all interstate standards had to be complied with completely during the construction phase.
“So part of that review process is not only can cars handle it but can large trucks handle it,” added the supervisory engineer.
The upgraded interchange was built at a cost of $7.5 million plus another $2 million for landscaping. Funding for the safety improvements came from local tax dollars funneled through the Centerra Metro District.
Hempen is eager to learn the conclusions of accident investigators about the cause of the deadly accident. Still, it’s disturbing for the veteran road builder to see a fatality occur so soon after so much money was spent to make the interchange safer.