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Local officials totally unprepared for bad road conditions -- again

Transportation pros: In case you don't recognize it, this is black ice.

After the blizzards that blanketed the Denver metro area in late 2006 and early 2007, transportation officials pledged that they'd do a better job of being ready in advance for weather-related road hazards, rather than scrambling to pick up the pieces afterward. But the following November, the first snowfall of the season practically paralyzed the system even though it was modest in scope and anticipated well in advance. And today stands as another example of how empty promises of preparedness truly are: The highway system in west metro was an absolute mess due to climactic conditions that anyone with at least one of five senses functioning knew would result in problems.

As everyone other than the folks at the Colorado Department of Transportation realizes, we've had two solid days' worth of persistent drizzle and cloud cover that prevented the roads from drying, followed by an accurately predicted temperature dip below the freezing level. That's a formula for black ice, which is precisely what afflicted most of C-470 along the foothills and much of 6th Avenue during the pre-7 a.m. commute. Yet during my seemingly endless drive into the city from the Ken-Caryl area, I didn't spot a single vehicle treating the road surfaces to prevent a slickness buildup. Instead, I saw emergency vehicles responding to at least five accident scenes I inched past before abandoning 6th Avenue in favor of Colfax at the Sims exit. And that's not counting the rollover at the ramp from C-470 to I-70, where a man stood at the edge of the road about twenty yards from an SUV resting on its side, his hands stuffed into his pockets, waiting patiently for the authorities to get around to him. I fear it took them a while.

If something as simple as this can catch transporation staffers unaware, I tremble to think how they'll respond to a major storm. 'Tis the season for traffic nightmares that are worse than they need to be. -- Michael Roberts

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts