KUSA - After taking a beating from angry motorists stranded in ski traffic last Sunday, CDOT is fighting back with a statement blaming the congestion on unprepared drivers.
The statement released Thursday blames drivers with "in state plates" who are put on notice by CDOT executive director Don Hunt that "driving in the mountain is a privilege."
Drivers report spending eight to 10 hours sitting in traffic Sunday afternoon and evening.
CDOT argues the hellacious eastbound traffic was partially due to 22 vehicles removed from traffic by its Courtesy Patrol and 11 commercial vehicles which were rescued after failing to put on chains for the approach to Eisenhower Tunnel.
"Of the 22 (non commercial) vehicles, 19 had bald tires and 18 had in state plates," the statement reads, in part. "Lanes blocked by spun out passenger and commercial vehicles caused delays to increase at an astounding rate to where CDOT was forced to close eastbound I-70 in order to allow the traffic and dozens of accidents and spun out vehicles to be cleared."
The release details 11 potential solutions including metering traffic leaving the ski resorts, closing eastbound I-70 to truck traffic at Dotsero when conditions warrant and having the Colorado State Patrol conduct passenger vehicle traction checkpoints at mountain onramps.
Immediately following CDOT's list of potential solutions, a CDOT director is quoted mentioning a hot button idea: limiting I-70 access only to vehicles with four-wheel drive.
Transportation Systems Management & Operations Director Ryan Rice says it's not his idea, but CDOT could do it if it so desired.
"When you have hundreds of Colorado residents reaching out, as they did after last Sunday, suggesting that we limit road access to only vehicles with four wheel drive, something that statute actually does allow, you realize that the public understands their part in helping to ensure the success of keeping I-70 West moving," Rice is quoted as saying.
CDOT spokeswoman Amy Ford says that is not a threat.
"It's not something that we plan on doing," Ford told 9NEWS by phone Thursday. "It's a law on the books. We were asked if it was out there."
Sunday was the start of a rough week of public relations for CDOT. In addition to public anger over Sunday's traffic issues, CDOT has been deluged with criticism over its handling of a plan to privatize U.S. 36 between Boulder and Denver.
At a raucous public meeting Wednesday night, hundreds booed and shouted as CDOT officials stood by their plan not to release the privatization contract to interested citizens and state legislators until after its signed.
CDOT press release
(KUSA-TV © 2014 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)