City cut in half concerns mayor and the sky is falling...
Monday, September 24, 2007
The thought of a truck slamming into the overpass at the Parachute interchange of Interstate 70 chills the city’s mayor, Roy McClung.
“If we were to have something happen to that bridge … the whole north side of this valley is cut off from emergency service,” McClung said. “The best bet we would have is Flight For Life out of Grand Junction.”
McClung said the truck crash into a span over I-70 at 26 1/2 Road in Grand Junction this summer only renewed his concerns.
Grand Valley Fire Protection District Chief David Blair said if the Parachute overpass were damaged, his staff would encounter significant delays responding north of the city.
Because emergency services are based south of the overpass, crews would have to drive along frontage roads east to Rifle or west to Garfield County Road 300 to cross I-70.
“That bridge really is the only way from north Parachute to south Parachute,” Blair said.
McClung said the city is working with the Colorado Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration to turn a bridge roughly 1 1/2 miles west of Parachute into a working overpass.
That bridge is an old railroad overpass which was earmarked as a second Parachute interchange during the oil shale boom of the early 1980s, McClung said.
“Most of the infrastructure is there, but we have to go through CDOT and the Federal Highway Administration, and that is a long, slow process at best,” he said.
It could take three to five years to begin construction, he said.
Doug Aden, who heads Colorado’s Transportation Commission, said Parachute’s concerns are another example of needs outpacing the state’s transportation budget.
“These are real-life examples of things that just aren’t going to get done, at least with state funds, given the current revenues available to CDOT,” Aden said.
Creating a new interchange or expanding the existing interchange to deal with increased energy-industry traffic would be “very expensive” prospects.
Aden said unless the federal government or local entities pay for highway projects, Parachute might have to wait.
While overpass expansions sit on the back burner, McClung said city officials nervously hope the bridge at its inerchange remains intact.
“With the number of oil field trucks we have coming through here, it’s just a matter of time before something happens,” McClung said.
He said it’s just a matter of time before a water truck crashes into the bridge, igniting the diesel fuel in its tank.
“If the wrong thing happens and one of these suckers blows up, it’s going to be bad news,” McClung said.