California highway experts say Hick’s I-70 trucking restrictions could fly

The Colorado Independent on Friday reported that gubernatorial candidate John Hickenlooper had floated the idea of restricting large truck traffic on I-70 west of Denver during peak hours as a way of alleviating congestion on holiday weekends or on busy ski weekends. The story also quoted a Colorado Department of Transportation spokesman saying that the federal government would not allow such a restriction.

Could I-70 gridlock be fixed by restricting truck traffic? (Photo courtesy of i70solutions.org)

It turns out that such a restriction is not completely out of the question.

California has been restricting truck traffic on I-80 over Donner Pass since the 1960s. CalTrans spokesman Mark Dinger says some sections of I-80 are extremely dangerous when you combine snowy conditions with skier traffic, tourists and large trucks.

He says the state has an “agreement” with the larger trucking companies to cooperate in the ban, but he noted that “cooperation” is not strictly needed as the state has the ability to ticket drivers who violate the ban and even to impound any trucks that violate the ban.

He says the state actually has parking areas where trucks are directed to park and wait until weather and traffic conditions improve.

“We try not to mix trucks and tourists when the weather is bad,” he said.

According to Nancy Dinger, spokeswoman for the Federal Department of Transportation, Colorado could restrict truck traffic on I-70, but only with the express written approval of the Federal Highway Administration.

She sent this regulation, 23 CFR 658.11:

“(d) Deletions and use restrictions-Federal-aid interstate. (1) The deletion of, or imposition of use restrictions on, any specific segment of the Interstate Highway System on the National Network, except as otherwise provided in this part, must be approved by the FHWA. Such action will be initiated on the FHWA’s own initiative or on the request of the Governor or the Governor’s authorized representative of the State in which the Interstate segment is located. Requests from the Governor or the Governor’s authorized representative shall be submitted along with justification for the deletion or restriction, in writing, to the appropriate FHWA Division Office for transmittal to Washington
Headquarters.”

Dinger said any interstate highway running through Colorado is the property of Colorado and that it is Colorado’s responsibility to manage those highways as effectively as possible.

“States are responsible for operating the roads and using strategies to manage congestion. Then again, there are federal regulations aimed at ensuring mobility and access. It’s difficult to say what can or cannot be done without having the specifics on what the state is proposing,” she said via email.

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About the Author

Scot Kersgaard

Scot Kersgaard has been managing editor of a political newspaper, editor and co-owner of a ski town newspaper, executive editor of eight high-tech magazines (where he worked with current Apple CEO Tim Cook), deputy press secretary to a U.S. Senator, and an outdoors columnist at the Rocky Mountain News. He has an English degree from the University of Washington. He was awarded a fellowship to study internet journalism at the University of Maryland's Knight Center for Specialized Journalism. He was student body president in college. He spends his free time hiking and skiing.

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