Council targets cone zone speeders
By PETER MARCUS - January 29, 2007
The Denver City Council introduced a bill yesterday that would double the amount of fines for traffic infractions in construction zones.

The legislation follows several recent incidents in which Colorado Department of Transportation workers were either killed or injured in construction zones.

Last October, a 56-year-old Department of Transportation maintenance worker was hit by a semi-truck in a construction zone along Interstate 70 northeast of Denver, leaving the worker in critical condition. Last August, a 34-year-old CDOT worker was killed and another transportation worker was seriously injured when a semi struck construction equipment south of Pueblo.

The most recent CDOT worker fatalities involving work zone crashes prior to this year were in 2004, when there were 1,886 crashes, resulting in 757 injuries and 14 deaths.

Preventative measure

Statistics for Denver crashes and injuries in construction zones were not immediately available, but the Department of Public Works and City Council members view the legislation as preventative.

“What we’re finding is that people aren’t obeying the speed limits in construction zones enough and they’re putting workers at risk,” said Councilman Doug Linkhart.

The bill was tied up in committee for a while because the City Council wanted to make sure that construction signs will only be posted when construction is in progress, said Linkhart. He said the City Council has been assured that drivers will not drive past construction signs without construction in progress.

Hoping to draw attention

The Department of Public Works is hopeful that the legislation will draw attention to the fact that construction workers have the right of way.

“It’s important for people to pay attention as they’re driving,” said City Engineer Lesley Thomas. “If something will catch their eye, change their behavior, then I think that’s a good thing.”

The city is hoping that doubling fines will be that attention grabber. Considering between 19,000 and 20,000 construction zone permits are issued each year, there is a lot to pay attention to.

“We need to remind drivers of the challenges of working outdoors in construction zones,” said Councilman Charlie Brown.

Also could protect drivers

Brown also said the bill would intend to protect drivers themselves. He knows a man who was killed while driving through a construction zone. The man turned to check on his children while in the middle of the zone, drove off in the construction zone, flipped his car, and was killed.

“We’ve got to be serious about this,” Brown said. “Every year someone with CDOT is killed or injured seriously.”

In other City Council news:

The Denver City Council also approved a $1.5 million loan for El Centro Su Teatro to build a new building.

The Chicano/Latino arts center is planning to build a new $3.5 million arts center at 251 S. Santa Fe Drive.

Su Teatro must raise the other half of the money itself.

Su Teatro officials said it outgrew its current facility at 4725 High St.