Steamboat Springs A Colorado State Trooper who has more than 20 years of experience patrolling Muddy Pass believes safety improvements to the pass are long overdue.
"This has always been a troublesome area," said Sgt. Mike McGinley, who oversees five troopers in the Kremmling, Granby and Walden areas. "They should have widened that road 30 years ago."
Recently, the Colorado Department of Transportation unveiled a $4.8-million project to make safety improvements to a two-mile stretch of the pass.
Starting at the junction of U.S. 40 and Colorado 14, CDOT is planning to widen the road for another lane, add a message sign, improve the access to Muddy Pass Lake and clear timber.
The portion of U.S. 40 that will be widened for a westbound climbing lane and for more shoulder room on both sides of the road is currently narrow and full of curves.
In his more than 20 years of patrolling the Muddy Pass area, McGinley has responded to countless accidents in that stretch of road between milepost 155 and 157.
"The corners are so tight," he said. "In the winter, we have problems with snow and ice. It is not uncommon for a semi truck to block the road.
"In the summer, some motorists try to go too fast and cut corners. There have been times when I spent days up there investigating accidents."
The reason for the improvements is the number of accidents that have occurred on the pass since 1993. CDOT has calculated the pass has an above-average rate of accidents when it is compared to similar passes in the state.
CDOT calculates accidents on highways in the state based on per million vehicle miles per travel.
The average accident rate which includes noninjury, injury and fatality accidents for a comparable mountain pass is 2.10 per million vehicle miles per travel.
Since 1993, Muddy Pass has an accident rate of 4.63 per million vehicle miles per travel.
Starting this summer, CDOT plans on starting the first phase of the project. This phase includes grading for the widening of the two-lane highway and slope stabilization. The first phase also calls for the installation of drainage infrastructure for the new road and the clearing of trees.
CDOT is clearing the timber to reduce road icing in shaded areas of the road.
The second phase of the project is scheduled for the summer of 2002.
This phase calls for the construction of a second lane for westbound traffic. The lane is being added for slower-moving vehicles.
Capt. Gary Torgerson, who is McGinley's supervisor, believes a climbing lane has been needed for some time.
"It is a rough area," he said. "If an impatient motorist gets behind an 18-wheeler, they might try and pass, and that is where a head-on collision can occur.
"I am in favor of any improvements they make."
The widened road will also provide 4-foot to 8-foot shoulders for emergency parking and bicyclists.
A sign will also be installed at the junction of U.S. 40 and Colo. 14 for westbound traffic traveling toward Steamboat Springs.
The digital sign, which is similar to what overhangs Interstate 70 near Vail, will provide westbound motorists with road conditions of Muddy and Rabbit Ears passes.
The project will also improve access to Muddy Pass Lake for westbound traffic. The project calls for a turn lane to be added to the roadway.
"Anything they can do to make the road better is great for us," McGinley said.