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Gov. Polis Signs New Traction, Snowplow Laws Outside Eisenhower Tunnel

by Sawyer D'Argonne- Summit Daily

As cars began to pile up on the east side of Eisenhower/Johnson Memorial Tunnel on Monday afternoon, Summit County residents were again reminded of the often treacherous nature of winter driving in the mountains. But drivers may be more prepared to deal with the elements by this time next year.

Gov. Jared Polis and representatives from around the state gathered under a soft dusting of snow outside of the tunnel on Friday afternoon, hoping to make the roadways to western Colorado a little safer. Polis signed two new transportation bills into effect at the meeting, both aimed at improving safety and keeping traffic moving in the corridor.

“These are both safety bills, but they’re more than that because for regular Coloradans these are also bills to reduce traffic,” said Polis, who spoke in front of a crowd — including Summit County Commissioners Thomas Davidson and Elizabeth Lawrence — inside the tunnel’s operations room before signing the bills. “This will really have an impact on keeping people moving in the High Country, which is good for business, good for quality of life and also good for safety.”

TRACTION

The first bill signed was a measure to increase the traction standards for drivers making the trip along Interstate 70. Under the previous law, motorists only needed to think about their equipment after the Colorado Department of Transportation put commercial or passenger vehicle traction laws into effect. Now, the restrictions are essentially in effect for the entire winter, from Sept. 1 through May 31, for anyone driving between Dotsero (milepost 133) and Morrison (milepost 259).

The bill also raised the bar for traction requirements. Drivers will only legally be allowed on the roadway if they have a tire tread depth of at least 3/16th of an inch (previously 1/8th of an inch), along with four-wheel drive, all-wheel drive, or either mud and snow or all-weather rated tires. Commercial vehicle drivers are required to carry chains for at least four tires, or an alternate traction device, throughout the entire period in case traction laws go into effect.

“It will improve safety; it will reduce traffic jams,” said Rep. Dylan Roberts, one of the bill’s prime sponsors along with Sens. Bob Rankin and Kerry Donovan. “This is one way we can start reducing traffic on I-70, and keep our local economy humming.”

While all agree that state officials had the right idea in mind in coming up with the new law, some are concerned about enforcing the measure.

Colin Remillard, a local spokesman with the Colorado State Patrol, said that any bill aimed at improving the traffic flow on I-70 would be helpful, but noted that educating the public on the law could be an issue, especially for out of state visitors.

“In every winter storm there’s always dozens of passenger cars without the ability to get up the hill,” said Remillard. “That creates a domino effect, where if there’s cars spun out it’s really hard for them to treat it, and we’re in a position we can’t clear the road. So this is a step in the right direction.

“Enforcement could be an interesting issue. I’m not saying ignorance is an excuse, but for people coming up from Florida for a week, this type of thing really isn’t on their radar.”

Peter Griff, owner of Breckenridge Rental Car, reciprocated Remillard’s concerns, noting that car rental companies in Denver won’t be keeping the law in mind when renting out cars.

“I think it’s just an ongoing issue of people not knowing the area,” said Griff. “They don’t know the laws or how they work. They think they’re all set with that four-wheel drive car, even if they don’t have the right tires. I think the intention is in the right place, but it’s a matter of how enforceable this is.”

SNOWPLOWS

In addition to the traction bill, Polis signed off on a new law increasing penalties for motorists who unsafely pass snowplows on the road. Under the former law, a person who overtakes an operating snowplow while failing to “exercise more than ordinary care and caution” could be charged with a class B traffic offense. The new law creates more a severe punishment in the form of a class A traffic offense for drivers that pass an operating snowplow in “echelon formation” with one or more other snowplows. Echelon formation denotes snowplows arranged diagonally, with one unit behind and either to the right or left of the other.

Class A traffic offenses are punishable by a fine typically between $15 and $100 along with a surcharge.

According to CDOT, plows operating in echelon formation is the safest and most efficient snow removal method, and attempting to pass is dangerous for all parties involved due to potential white out conditions coming off the plows and ridges of snow between lanes.

“It creates a class A traffic infraction for passing a snowplow in echelon formation,” said Polis. “Its another safety measure, also one that will prevent accidents which lead to road closures, again to keep people moving in the high country safely.”

“We ask CDOT to keep us safe, and these two bills will hopefully pay that forward by helping to keep CDOT safe while they’re helping us,” added Sen. Donovan.

OpenSnow launches ‘OpenSummit’ Summertime Mountaintop Weather Forecasts

by Antonio Olivero- Summit Daily


In time for summer hiking, the skiing-focused weather forecasting website OpenSnow and its Colorado-based founder Joel Gratz have launched a new mountaintop weather-forecasting service dubbed “OpenSummit.”

OpenSummit — available at OpenSummit.com — provides access to hourly weather forecasts for more than 1,000 locations across the country. Information for each location includes the chance of precipitation, lightning potential, temperature, wind speed and sunrise and sunset times free to all readers up to two days, and up to five days for OpenSnow/OpenSummit all-access subscribers. Gratz said additional forecast data and locations will be added over time. A dual OpenSummit-OpenSnow yearly subscription costs $19 annually.

The forecasting service provides information specific to 232 mountaintop locations in Colorado. Here in Summit County, the service provides information at locations including Buffalo Mountain, Uneva Peak, Peak One, Peak 10, Crystal Peak, Pacific Peak, Atlantic Peak, Fletcher Mountain, Quandary Peak, Bald Mountain, Mount Guyot, Mount Valhalla, Mount Powell, Eagles Nest, Arapahoe Basin Ski Area, Keystone Resort and Breckenride Ski Resort.

Other nearby locations include Torreys Peak, Grays Peak, Mount Edwards, Mount Sniktau, Pettingell Peak, Byers Peak, Square Top Mountain, Notch Mountain, Mount of the Holy Cross, Holy Cross Ridge, Clinton Peak Mount Lincoln, Mount Cameron, Mount Democrat, Mount Buckskin, Mount Bross, Mount Silverheels, Dyer Mountain, Mount Sherman, Horseshoe Mountain, Mount Massive, Mount Oklahoma, Mount Elbert, Casco Peak, Lackawanna, French Mountain. Mount Parnassus, Bard Peak, Vasquez Peak, Winter Park Resort and Colorado Mines Peak, among others.

An OpenSummit mobile-phone application is also available for download on iOS, while Android will be available by early June.

To search and see which mountains are included in the forecasting service, vist: OpenSummit.com/Explore.

 

Here are four reasons to consider buying today instead of waiting.

1. Prices Will Continue to Rise

CoreLogic’s latest U.S. Home Price Insights reports that home prices have appreciated by 3.7% over the last 12 months. The same report predicts that prices will continue to increase at a rate of 4.8% over the next year.

Home values will continue to appreciate. Waiting may no longer makes sense.

2. Mortgage Interest Rates Are Projected to Increase

Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey shows that interest rates for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage have started to level off around 4.3%. Most experts predict that rates will rise over the next 12 months. The Mortgage Bankers Association, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the National Association of Realtors are in unison, projecting rates will increase by this time next year.

An increase in rates will impact YOUR monthly mortgage payment. A year from now, your housing expense will increase if a mortgage is necessary to buy your next home.

3. Either Way, You Are Paying a Mortgage

Some renters have not yet purchased a home because they are uncomfortable taking on the obligation of a mortgage. Everyone should realize that unless you are living with your parents rent-free, you are paying a mortgage – either yours or your landlord’s.

As an owner, your mortgage payment is a form of ‘forced savings’ which allows you to have equity in your home that you can tap into later in life. As a renter, you guarantee your landlord is the person with that equity.

Are you ready to put your housing cost to work for you?

4. It’s Time to Move On with Your Life

The ‘cost’ of a home is determined by two major components: the price of the home and the current mortgage rate. It appears that both are on the rise.

But what if they weren’t? Would you wait?

Examine the actual reason you are buying and decide if it is worth waiting. Whether you want to have a great place for your children to grow up, greater safety for your family, or you just want to have control over renovations, now could be the time to buy.

Bottom Line

If the right thing for you and your family is to purchase a home this year, buying sooner rather than later could lead to substantial savings.

Many experts are revising their initial predictions for 2019 to reflect more aggressive projections for home price appreciation. This is great news for homeowners who will gain even more equity in their homes as prices rise! Let's get together to chat about what this means for you!

As the days get warmer, the snowcaps in the High Country are about to shrink. An epic spring runoff is in the works after one of the best winters in recent years, and local water...


As the days get warmer, the snowcaps in the High Country are about to shrink. An epic spring runoff is in the works after one of the best winters in recent years, and local water and emergency officials are preparing Summit County for the deluge.

Snowpack across the state is 654% of normal, according to the latest snow survey from the National Resources Conservation Service. That is 51 times larger than the state’s average snowpack at this time last year, with flooding a much bigger concern at this point than wildfire. The state of Colorado is drought-free for the first time in 20 years, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

To illustrate the change in fortunes, the county was on the verge of declaring Stage 1 fire restrictions at this time last year. Wednesday will mark one year since the Buffalo Mountain Fire nearly destroyed the Wildernest neighborhood near Silverthorne. That fire was borne out of extraordinarily dry and hot conditions after one of the worst winters in the state’s history.

This year, instead of supplying helicopters with water to dump on fires, Denver Water is draining water from Dillon Reservoir in anticipation of runoff, which is expected to really begin coming down in the next few weeks.

“This year being a high snowpack year, we know there’s going to be a lot of water getting into the reservoir,” Denver Water supply manager Nathan Elder said. “We’re trying to have enough space to catch that runoff while providing for safe outflows to the Blue River below the reservoir.”

At the moment, the reservoir — which is the main drinking water supply for 1.4 million people in the Denver metro area — is 75% full with 192,554 acre-feet of water. When full, the reservoir holds 257,304 acre-feet. An acre-foot of water would cover an area the size of an acre 1-foot deep. Given the current estimate for runoff volume, there will be more than enough water to fill it.

“The forecasting for the rest of June and July project a volume of anywhere from 169,000 acre-feet to 211,000 acre-feet coming into the reservoir,” Elder said. “That’ll fill it, but we’re probably not going to fill it until the Fourth of July to make sure we’re past that peak-inflow time.”

Elder said peak inflow to the reservoir is expected to start about a week later this year than usual, which also means Summit’s two marinas in Dillon and Frisco will have to wait before the reservoir is full enough for boating. However, boaters should have a lot more time for play this year compared with last, when boat ramps were retracted weeks before they normally would be due to low water.

“Typically, every year we target June 18 to be at 9,012-foot elevation needed for both marinas to be completely operational, but it’s going to be a little delayed this year,” Elder said. “But while the boating season might be shortened by a week on the front end, on the tail end, it should last quite a bit longer.”

The delay also means local emergency officials will be watching streamflows longer into the month, looking to spring into action if Tenmile Creek, Straight Creek or the Blue River approach the verge of flooding.

Current two-week projections show all three waterways approaching “action stage,” the threshold at which the towns and county are called to start flood mitigation preparations, by June 15.

Summit County’s director of emergency management Brian Bovaird said he closely has been watching the forecasts for flooding. That is opposed to last June when Bovaird, who recently had gotten the job as emergency director, was given a literal trial by fire.

“It’s like picking your poison,” Bovaird said. “Last year, it was wildfire. This year, it’s flooding. We’re expecting heavy runoff moisture, which is good for wildfire but makes us uneasy about the flooding risk.”

Bovaird said the county and towns have been on standby for weeks, and even if there is flooding, the county’s strict zoning requirements in 100-year floodplain areas mean homes are up to code in those locations and have flood insurance, minimizing the likelihood of significant damage or loss.

Dillon’s Fourth of July fireworks show shot down

by Summit Daily

Dillon’s Fourth of July fireworks show shot down


The county will be a little quieter this Fourth of July with no fireworks over Lake Dillon as community officials continue to consider the impacts of large crowds in the area.

The town of Dillon officially pulled the plug on their planned fireworks show over the reservoir this Independence Day, or rather the plug was pulled for them at the monthly Dillon Reservoir Recreation Committee (DRReC) meeting last week.

Dillon’s marketing and communications director Kerstin Anderson said the town had every intention of moving forward with a fireworks display going into the DRReC meeting last Tuesday — a committee made up of representatives from Dillon, Frisco, Summit County, the U.S. Forest Service and Denver Water. But after questions arose about public safety and the community’s desire to collaborate on big projects of this nature, the town’s permit was denied.

Denver Water, which operates the reservoir, is a required ‘yes’ for any events to take place on the reservoir. Denver Water’s manager of recreation Brandon Ransom, who serves on the committee, was among those who opposed the show.

According to Todd Hartman, a spokesman for Denver Water, the decision was largely influenced by health and safety concerns of the community, citing input from law enforcement and emergency services worried about their ability to navigate potentially extreme congestion around the reservoir, including on U.S. Highway 6 and CO Highway 9.

“Denver Water is proud to support many recreational activities and events around Dillon Reservoir through the DRReC partnership, which allows all stakeholders an opportunity to weigh in so we can carefully evaluate the activity with regard to public safety and resource requirements,” said Ransom in a statement provided to the Summit Daily.

The county’s fireworks shows began making news in January after Breckenridge decided to cancel their show, citing concerns regarding wildfire safety after back-to-back seasons with major fires: the Peak 2 Fire and the Buffalo Mountain Fire.

In response to Breckenridge’s cancellation, Frisco decided to cancel their annual show over the reservoir, though the decision was much more heavily influenced by safety concerns surrounding crowds and traffic than fires. On a particularly busy day in late January, emergency services from around the county complained that prolific traffic and crowds had become a legitimate factor in inhibiting emergency operations throughout the county, and Frisco feared that an even bigger turnout to their fireworks show in the wake of Breckenridge’s cancellation could create major public safety concerns.

“The big issues had to do with life safety, and concerns in emergency response and the volume of guests,” said Diane McBride, Frisco’s director of recreation and assistant town manager. “All of that came into play when we made that decision, and a lot of those same concerns were raised when Dillon proposed having the fireworks.”

In early April, Dillon began discussions to step in and fill the void. Despite some concerns from staff — including Dillon Police Chief Mark Heminghous — that the town may not have sufficient time to plan the event, nor the resources to effectively police the event, the town was still pushing forward with the show until the rejection at the DRReC meeting last week.

In addition to any fireworks over the reservoir getting axed, Keystone Resort also decided not to incorporate a fireworks display as part of their Fourth of July celebrations this year.

“After consideration of a number of factors, we are confident Keystone will continue to serve as an ideal location for an Independence Day celebration,” said Geoff Buchheister, vice president and general manager for Keystone Resort. “Keystone is proud to offer families and guests a variety of activities and events to enjoy the Fourth of July holiday.”

Regardless of the lack of fireworks in the county this year, officials are optimistic that there’s still plenty of programming to draw visitors to the area and give locals a fun holiday. Among the most notable Fourth of July events this year are a performance from the National Repertory Orchestra at Rainbow Park in Silverthorne in the morning, live music and parades throughout the day in Frisco and Breckenridge, and a performance by The Air Force Academy Band at Dillon Amphitheater to close out the night.

Anderson said that while the town won’t be doing fireworks this Fourth of July, that doesn’t necessarily mean fireworks won’t be returning sometime in the future.

“In general the community is reevaluating how we manage big events collectively, and that’s going to be a process that each entity is going to need to come together to find where those parameters are and what works,” said Anderson. “The council needs to have a discussion and consider whether fireworks for Labor Day is a direction they’d want to go, knowing it’s a tough fire time of year, or looking at doing something at another time of year like the Lighting of Dillon. But fireworks are not off the table in Dillon.”

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Allison Simson, Owner/Broker, is a licensed Colorado Real Estate Broker