By Jamie Leary

SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – The Colorado Department of Transportation says due to safety concerns along Interstate 70, its project along a westbound stretch in Summit County will now be done during the daylight to provide safer conditions for construction workers.

“So that travelers have to slow down while they’re traveling through that area. Now, this means that it takes longer to drive through there, which is not our goal, but that’s the reality of making sure that this is a safe work zone but also so that it’s safe for motorists,” said Elise Thatcher, CDOT’s region three communications manager.

(credit: CBS)

There have been at least six accidents involving semis in the last month along I-70 and CDOT isn’t taking any more chances.

“We are very concerned about speeding traffic heading westbound on I-70 heading out the Eisenhower Johnson Memorial Tunnels, specifically commercial traffic or truck drivers. We understand that there is significant pressure right now on truck drivers due to a variety of factors but the reality is there is a trend and it is a safety problem,” said Thatcher.

Three weeks ago a semi traveling too fast westbound from the tunnel crashed. The driver of the truck was killed and it severely injured a construction worker parked along the side of the road.

“It’s incredibly important that we not repeat that scenario and the best way to make sure that we can do that is to have workers working during the daytime,” she said.

(credit: CBS)

Not only have the accidents created a safety hazard for those along I-70, it’s a burden on responders in the area.

“We’re an all hazards agency,” said Steve Lipsher, Summit Fire & EMS Community Resource Officer. “So at any point when we might have one or two or three crews up on the interstate dealing with bad weather and horrible traffic and crashes all over the place — we still have to respond to people getting sick or having other sorts of emergencies that crop up.”

Lipsher said early season snow, which is expected to roll in again Tuesday, creates an additional hazard for those traveling I-70 in the high country.

“They come down pretty wet and they hit pretty warm pavement but if it’s cold enough, if it freezes when hitting that pavement, it creates really treacherous conditions, maybe slicker now than in the middle of winter when we get a big blizzard coming in and it’s that dry champagne powder.  That has a certain amount of grip to it but these slushy wet early season storms definitely are cause for caution and slowing down, giving lots of space to other motorists, making sure you arrive to your destination,” said Lipsher.

While CDOT normally schedules construction projects overnight so as not to impact traffic, the incidents were growing enough where it had to make the change.

According to the project information page, new work hours begin Monday, October 25, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and will take place Monday – Thursday, weather permitting.

The schedule is expected to last through the end of November or early December and those traveling westbound along I-70 between the tunnel and Frisco should plan for an additional 30 minutes of travel time.

Jamie Leary