I-25 emergency response plan will help rescue officials

DENVER (AP) An emergency response plan for Interstate 25 during the T-REX construction project will help officials handle both fender benders and nuclear waste shipments.
The $1.67 billion highway expansion project officially starts Sunday night. For months, highway officials, law enforcement agencies and contractors have been working on an ''incident response'' plan to lessen traffic delays.
If nuclear waste shipments get caught in a traffic jam, police escorts could guide the trucks through residential areas. If an accident halts traffic for at least two hours or shuts down the highway, T-REX officials and police and fire agencies will direct traffic onto alternate roadways.
Officials also have mapped rescue stations and emergency rooms in the corridor to coordinate routes of emergency responders.
Greg Fulton, president of the Colorado Motor Carriers Association, which represents the state's trucking companies, agreed T-REX would present unique problems to his members.
''The difficulty and challenge on I-25 is that we do not have any true alternate corridors,'' Fulton said.
''We'd love to see pricing more attractive on E-470,'' but right now, the highway's tolls are too high for most truckers, he said.
The project includes 19 miles of highway expansion and light-rail construction on Interstates 25 and 225 and will take five years to complete.
One challenge for planners is to coordinate the transit of hazardous materials through the corridor.
Since July 1999, at least 200 shipments of plutonium-tainted waste have traveled through the corridor from the former weapons plant Rocky Flats to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, N.M., said Pat Etchart, spokesman for the Department of Energy.
Plans eventually call for shipments to more than double from about seven shipments per week.
Officials considered diverting the shipments to C-470, but it would have taken too long to get federal approval for the plan, officials said. I-25 is designated as a nuclear materials transit corridor but C-470 is not.
Officials plan to have dozens of video cameras monitoring the highway so emergency responders can be notified quickly of problems.
Every 0.1 mile in the corridor soon will be marked so drivers can tell emergency personnel precisely where an accident is, said T-REX spokeswoman Karen Morales.

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