CDOT REVISITED … Each year CDOT directors, engineers, PR folks and field staff, plus State Transportation Commissioner Steve Parker of Durango, visit Telluride and talk with the county commissioners. They present their annual budget and answer any questions. It’s a public meeting, although usually few citizens attend. Last week’s meet was a little different … (Actually, this column got “lost” in cyberpurgatory, and the meeting referred to here happened back on Sept. 23.).
MAG CHLORIDE …Thanks to BOCC Chair Joan May, CDOT came prepared to explain its continuing use of a controversial chloride liquid de-icer, heavy on the magnesium … There was the usual history to explain first. How the EPA tagged Telluride back in the Eighties with PM-10 Non-Attainment Area Status -- under the Clean Air Act … PM-10 is particulate matter so small that, when suspended in some concentration in the air we breathe, it can lead to pulmonary stress and disease. Wood smoke, vehicle exhaust and road dust were identified as the main culprits (imagine what the morning air inversion must have been like back when Telluride was a mining camp of 5,000 souls burning coal) … So, for the last twenty-plus years state and local governments have worked to ban wood-burning in the Telluride airshed, pave roads, use street sweepers, apply dust control to county and private roads, and stop using sand particles on the state highway. But that left CDOT with a problem – how to provide a safe level of traction on icy or snow-packed winter roads. And that brings us back to mag chloride, the current winter road treatment. Everyone agrees that mag chloride salt formulations contain some heavy metals. Someone from the CDOT team explained that the chemical shipments are randomly tested – under current contracts coming from Utah – and concentrations of toxins have to be within industry limits. But what had local citizens in attendance and up in arms were the dead and dying trees along local highways and roads … CDOT Consultant Ed Fink had the latest best bit of information on that issue. It’s not the salt seeping into the roots that’s killing the trees, it’s the speed of the car tires mashing the salt into the snow and spinning both up into the air as a salty aerosol that coats the needles of evergreens, and kills them – blocks photosynthesis from occurring. Fink actually told me in private that he thinks it may be a bad idea to cut down dead trees, since they could block the mag chloride aerosol from infecting healthy trees … Nevertheless, CDOT folks have committed to go with several of us on a highway dead tree tour and see if they can start identifying and figuring out how they might remove some of the unsightly snags within the highway right-of-way along our scenic byway.… According to Fink, the distance the aerosol spreads out from the pavement is directly proportional to the speed of the traffic on the road – the slower the speed limit, the less dead trees. So, the real eco-answer to the problem ought to be limiting traffic speed to 45 mph or lower everywhere in the Telluride Region.
TRAFFIC LIGHT COMETH? … Engineer Mike McVaugh brought the good news – Society Turn’s intersection was identified as number three in CDOT’s Durango Engineering District’s problem intersection list, high up among the ones planned for fixes (its congestion factor the highest in the region) ... The bad news was that there wasn’t $4 to $8 million in the budget for a roundabout, but just under a half-million for the installation of traffic lights. Not the best solution, McVaugh agreed, but with special traffic-sensing devices he assured us that he felt they could mitigate the increasingly long waits at that corner, especially during rush hours … But that’s the technical engineering. The bigger question -- does Telluride want a traffic light?
NORWOOD HILL WORK … Another safety issue on the Norwood-to-Telluride reach of Highway 145 is imminent rockfall hazards on Norwood Hill, and McVaugh said those would be addressed with some control work next fall … So, expect traffic control and delays on the highway once again next year.
TO TURNOUT OR NOT … The county gave a pitch to CDOT for more turnouts to relieve traffic congestion on Highway 145, including a powerpoint of a similar mountain highway in Nevada, where turnouts are better signed and used more consistently. Of course, most states have a five-car-following limit, before a slow-moving vehicle has to pull over at the next safe opportunity. Colorado doesn’t. Its statutes are sufficiently vague that the State Patrol rarely ever pulls over slow-moving vehicles, and the rush hour trains along the Placerville-to-Telluride sector can number in the several dozens, both going and coming … McVaugh promised to send a safety engineer out on a ride (alone) to consider possible sites for more turnouts.
WEEKLY QUOTA … “I guess the only difference between Sarah Palin and Dick Cheney is ... lipstick.” - Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (environmental lawyer and a professor at Pace University Law School)
CACTUS GOO … The slimy ooze inside prickly pear cacti can act as water purifier extraordinaire, according to Hispanic biochemical engineer Norma Alcantar of the University of South Florida in Tampa. It scours arsenic (up to 80 percent), bacteria and even cloudiness out of rural drinking water … Discovery News wrote, “Alcantar estimates that one lobe of prickly pear would supply a family of five for about five weeks.” … Next thing you know, we’ll be seeing prickly pear farms down in the desert.
THE TALKING GOURD
Coming Home from Montrose
Eye out for deer, elk, kiyote
while the other’s nodding off.