Speeding motorists facing crackdown in construction zone

Dennis Webb
Post Independent Staff
September 12, 2006

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Some motorists are paying a hefty price for trying to shave seconds off their commute through a construction zone on Interstate 70 between Glenwood Springs and South Canyon.

As of late last week, the Colorado State Patrol had issued 163 tickets in the construction zone since repaving work began in early July. Of those, 132 were for speeding.

Some of those tickets are proving to be particularly pricey. Fines are double in the area where workers are present within the construction zone.

As a result, several motorists have ended up with fines of $232 for going between 20 and 24 mph above the 40-mph speed limit in work zones. State Patrol Capt. Rich Duran said those offenders also received six points on their licenses. Motorists are allowed up to 12 points a year.

Most of the speeders were caught going 10-19 mph above the speed limit in work zones, resulting in $116.60 in fines and four points on their licenses.

Duran said tickets are being issued at about twice the normal rate for that stretch of I-70.

The crackdown on speeding and other traffic offenses in the construction area is being funded by the Colorado Department of Transportation's Slow for the Cone Zone program, which is in about its fifth year, said CDOT spokesperson Nancy Shanks. CDOT gives the money to the State Patrol and local law enforcement agencies to pay personnel overtime to do traffic law enforcement in construction zones.

Said Duran, "It's us teaming up with CDOT and the contractor just to provide some kind of safety for people working on the road in that area."

He believes the enforcement efforts have paid off.

"I think we've made a significant impact. I think the majority of the motorists are using caution driving through there," he said.

As of about the end of August, there had been six accidents in the construction zone, three of them when work was going on, Duran said.

Five involved property damage only. One resulted in injury, but Duran didn't think it was of a serious nature.

He said the accidents tended to result from following too closely and other cases of inattentiveness.

Charles Woodcock, the project manager for Elam Construction, thinks the increased police presence boosts motorist awareness.

"People, when they drive, do a lot of things. If we can get them to pay attention, to me, that automatically is going to increase safety, and that's top of the list on a job," he said.

He thinks enforcement efforts are particularly helpful in boosting awareness among local motorists who drive through the construction area often and can become numb to it.

"You may not necessarily be paying as much attention as someone who's going through there for the first time," he said.

Woodcock agrees with the state legislature's decision last year to expand the doubling of fines so it applies to not just speeding, but other traffic violations.

Last year's bill was named in honor of Eladio Lopez and Paul Forster, two CDOT maintenance employees killed in 2004 when a drunken driver crashed in their work zone.

On Aug. 31, one CDOT worker was killed and another injured when a semi crashed in a work zone south of Pueblo.

In 2004, there were 1,886 crashes in Colorado work zones, resulting in 757 injuries and 14 deaths.

While officials want motorists traveling at a safe speed through the construction area on I-70, they don't want them driving too slowly, as sometimes happens when people become engrossed in watching the work going on. Traffic backups have been an occasional problem during this summer's project.

"It is a double-edged sword," said Woodcock. "We want them going slow through there to protect our guys but at the same time we want them to get through there with minimal delays."