Work to end soon on deadly I-70 stretch

An Interstate 70 construction zone in Glenwood Canyon where two head-on collisions have claimed four lives this spring is scheduled to revert back to its normal traffic pattern June 3 as work winds down, Colorado Department of Transportation spokeswoman Nancy Shanks said Thursday.

Shanks also said the agency will review the latest accident, which claimed one life Wednesday, to determine whether there’s anything that can be done differently in such zones to reduce the risk of crashes. But she said the type of work zone set up in the canyon is used in many places with head-to-head traffic, with measures including a double-striped no-passing center line, a lower speed limit, doubled fines for speeding, and heavy use of signs.

Colorado State Patrol trooper Graham Thorne said Thursday an investigation into Wednesday’s crash was continuing and the exact cause hadn’t yet been determined. Authorities also had yet to release the identification of the woman killed. Thorne said confirming identification was made more complicated because the car was a rental, and because of the fiery nature of the crash. He said witnesses were able to rescue three other occupants from the vehicle the woman was driving but the fire got too intense for them to get to her.

The eastbound Mazda struck an oncoming semi after veering into the westbound lane. The accident occurred where eastbound I-70 traffic is currently being diverted into what is normally a westbound lane while concrete resurfacing of eastbound lanes concludes in part of the canyon.

In April, a teenage driver from Glenwood Springs and two occupants of the car she was driving died in the canyon when she drove out of her lane and struck a truck head-on. Authorities later determined Brianda Zavala’s blood-alcohol level was more than three times Colorado’s legal limit.

Both that accident and this week’s occurred at night.

Shanks said CDOT reviews all fatalities that occur on state highways. After the earlier Glenwood Canyon accident, it determined the work zone was up to standards.

“That said, that doesn’t mean there’s never any room for improvement,” she said.

She said while some have suggested placing cones along the center line, those can pose their own dangers when struck and knocked into other lanes.

Thorne said he can’t speak for the State Patrol as a whole, but as a trooper his biggest concern in the canyon “is that the general traveling public just drives too fast.”

He said people drive through the 40-mph construction zone as fast as 70 mph, but the canyon is a hard place to stop speeders.

“Our best enforcement is just being visible,” he said.


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