New traffic safety improvements planned for Wolf Creek Pass moved a step closer to reality Monday when the federal government granted the project $2.4 million.
The Colorado Department of Transportation will use the funding for new cameras, signs and other infrastructure on the west side of Wolf Creek Pass to help prevent crashes, said Julie Constan, CDOT traffic program engineer.
“One of our biggest issues we have up there is the number of truck crashes. It’s the highest number of truck crashes we have anywhere our region,” she said.
The project is a high priority, and construction could start in summer 2020, she said.
The grant is about 20 percent of the needed $10 million to $12 million needed for the project, she said.
“This is just great seed money and a vote of confidence for this to get going,” said Lisa Schwantes, spokeswoman for CDOT.
As part of the project, CDOT plans to lay fiber-optic lines from the summit of Wolf Creek Pass to Pagosa Springs, Constan said. Power lines will likely have to laid for 5 or 6 miles west from the summit of the pass, she said. CDOT laid fiber up the east side of the pass in 2017.
The lines will be used to communicate with the newer commercial trucks that can receive real-time messages through their dedicated short-range communications radios, she said.
The project is in development, but it could rely on weight scales in the road.
As the trucks approach the hairpin turn near the overlook on the west side of Wolf Creek Pass, they could pass over scales in the road that could judge the truck’s speed and allow CDOT to send the trucks a messages about slowing down, she said.
Most of the truck drivers who crash on the pass are first-time drivers who are not familiar with the turn and steep grade of U.S. Highway 160, she said.
“The layout and the width of the highway up until you hit the overlook is very deceiving to the truck drivers,” she said.
The lines could also be hooked up to speed limit signs to adjust the speed limit based on weather conditions. And cameras would monitor the truck ramps on the pass, she said.
The project also presents an opportunity for other organizations to lay excess fiber that could serve the region’s telecommunications needs, she said.