Connect with us

News

CDOT’s Safety Patrol works to clear highway crashes as quickly as possible to keep traffic moving

Published

on

CDOT’s Safety Patrol works to clear highway crashes as quickly as possible to keep traffic moving

The crash that hit Interstate 225 in Aurora at the height of the evening rush hour was garden-variety: A sedan smashed into the back of a sport-utility vehicle, and nobody was hurt.

But the wreck quickly backed up northbound traffic all the same, with the heavily damaged Toyota Camry stuck, its engine dead, in one of the middle lanes near Colfax Avenue.

John “Boston” Alborghetti knew just what to do. Arriving before police, the CDOT Safety Patrol driver first checked to make sure no one was hurt. Then he used his specially outfitted Ford F-250 pickup to nudge the Camry over to the shoulder, where it joined the Jeep that had been hit.

Traffic was moving in all four lanes within five minutes.

Patrollers in the Colorado Department of Transportation’s roadside assistance program have kept tabs on a growing network of metro Denver and Colorado highways for 29 years, offering free help to stranded motorists while assisting authorities at crash scenes. The Safety Patrol recently added new routes in metro Denver to its network and signed up a new sponsor, the Geico insurance company, which will contribute $550,000 a year toward the program’s $6.5 million budget, CDOT says.

Alborghetti’s response on I-225 on the recent Monday evening prioritized safety and speed, since a quicker clearance of the highway lessens the chances for another crash. He left broken glass and debris on the pavement, but the people involved in the crash were safely on the shoulder.

“If (the stalled car) was in the left lane or right lane — not in the middle — I would have kept the lane shut down with my cones and I would have swept the debris up,” said Alborghetti, 50, a no-nonsense Army Reservist with a Boston accent whose nickname was inspired by his upbringing there.

“But people just want to go — I want to open it up quick and fast, get people going.”

Safety Patrol drivers don’t investigate crashes or issue tickets, but they do help responding state troopers and police officers with traffic control and safety. They also can clear most anything that’s blocking the highway, whether it’s a car, a large appliance that’s fallen off a truck — or even an 18-wheeler, which takes two Safety Patrol drivers working in tandem, Alborghetti said.

For three years, he’s been the operational manager for IncidentClear, CDOT’s Safety Patrol contractor. Its drivers assist more than 40,000 motorists a year, CDOT says, between crash responses and helping drivers who need a flat tire changed, a jump-start, extra fuel or lockout assistance.

When needed, the program’s towing partner provides free tows to safe, well-lit locations off the highway.

Eli Imadali, Special to The Denver Post

Boston Alborghetti, a CDOT Safety Patrol driver, buckles his seat-belt after helping two drivers involved in a crash on I-70 in Denver during his evening shift driving on Monday, Nov. 8, 2021.

“We see accidents happen right in front of us”

Alborghetti was joined by a Denver Post reporter and photographer on that Monday in early November as he drove nearly 100 miles of metro Denver highways in three and a half hours.

As Alborghetti drove, he kept an eye out for collisions and for vehicles pulled over on the shoulders.

“So as I’m looking, I’m not only looking at this side (of the highway), I’m looking at that side, too,” he said as he neared the Sixth Avenue exit on Interstate 25 near downtown. “Because an accident may happen before CDOT or everybody else knows about it. We see accidents happen right in front of us.”

The afternoon had started quietly. Alborghetti’s first stop was on Interstate 70 near Sheridan Boulevard, where officers were responding to a car traveling the wrong direction in the eastbound lanes. He stopped in the left lane, his truck’s yellow emergency lights flashing, and placed cones to block it off for extra safety.

The driver turned out to be an older man who entered on the wrong ramp. By then, he’d pulled over on the inside shoulder and was talking with the officers. Alborghetti said they asked family members to come and drive the man home.

A half-hour later, while driving on I-25 near University Boulevard, Alborghetti spotted police and a CDOT incident management crew on the other side of the highway. He exited and turned back. They were managing traffic for a food truck that was stranded and blocking the right lane after its back axel busted, throwing the wheels out of alignment.

But this time, there was nothing for him to do, since the truck was upright and couldn’t move on its tires. If it had overturned and “it’s sitting out there, then boom! We will push it,” he said. Instead, Denver police called in a flatbed truck.

Boston Alborghetti, a CDOT Safety Patrol ...

Eli Imadali, Special to The Denver Post

Boston Alborghetti, a CDOT Safety Patrol driver, walks at the scene of a food truck spin-out on I-25 in Denver on Monday, Nov. 8, 2021.

New patrols added on I-270, I-76

The Safety Patrol has nearly two dozen trucks stocked with equipment, extra gas and cleanup materials. Its drivers patrol interstates 25, 70 and 225 as well as the Sixth Avenue Freeway and C-470 in the Denver area; stretches of I-25 near Colorado Springs and Fort Collins; and I-70 in the mountains between Golden and Vail.

In mid-November, the Safety Patrol added new regular patrols on interstates 76 and 270 in metro Denver.

Most shifts cover the morning and evening rush hours, but some Safety Patrol drivers roam the highways during off-peak hours and on weekends, especially on the I-70 mountain stretch. They operate everywhere except construction zones, which have their own safety crews.

“I really want to tell people,” Alborghetti said, that “if you see one of our trucks … move out of the way — because there is something hindering and stopping you from going home to your family, going to work, going out on a hot date or something,” and the Safety Patrol can get traffic moving again.

The Navy veteran lives in Castle Rock and now is in the Army Reserves. He said his most recent deployment was in the last year at the U.S. military’s detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He worked in security at Lockheed Martin’s Jefferson County campus, he said, before joining IncidentClear and the Safety Patrol.

Five years from retirement, he says he enjoys overseeing the patrol crews, while driving routes himself occasionally.

It’s a job that brings gratitude from the people helped by the patrol drivers. But the job also comes with its share of dangers, despite extensive training aimed at minimizing safety risks while working in traffic. Safety Patrol drivers also might be the first ones to arrive at a fatal crash scene — an incident that’s more likely to shut down a highway while it’s sorted out.

The drivers’ pay starts at $18 an hour and increases by $1 each year, Alborghetti said, with drivers eligible for safety bonuses.

For some, the variety is appealing. Drivers see similar patterns of crashes and roadside breakdowns, but each day brings a reshuffled deck — with winter storms throwing an extra wildcard into the mix.

“What’s today, Monday?” Alborghetti said, noting it had been relatively tame. “It’s a free-for-all on Fridays.”

Boston Alborghetti, a CDOT Safety Patrol ...

Eli Imadali, Special to The Denver Post

Boston Alborghetti, a CDOT Safety Patrol driver, fills out a report after responding to a wrong-way driver on I-70 in Arvada on Monday, Nov. 8, 2021.

Reducing the risk of more crashes

The quiet afternoon would soon give way to a flurry of radio traffic after 5 p.m., as rush-hour traffic grew denser.

But before that happened, Alborghetti talked about how the Safety Patrol responds to crashes. There’s a reason the drivers move quickly, with the program touting an average clearance time of less than 12 minutes.

As traffic backs up and drivers slam on the brakes, each minute brings a greater risk of another crash.

Alborghetti took the ramp from C-470 back onto I-70 as the sun was setting. He passed the stretch in Lakewood where the driver of a runaway semitrailer crashed into stopped traffic in April 2019, setting off a fiery chain-reaction pileup involving 28 vehicles. Four people died, and the driver recently was convicted of vehicular homicide.

The tragedy was a secondary crash, Alborghetti pointed out: That traffic was stopped because of a less-severe crash involving a car, a semitrailer and a school bus that happened five miles up the highway in Wheat Ridge about an hour earlier.

Clearing that one was more complicated than a fender-bender. But he said the time it took prompted hindsight discussions within CDOT and the Safety Patrol that underlined the importance of clearing most crashes quickly, to lessen the traffic backup.

google news

News

Teen shot in Maryland Heights Saturday evening

Published

on

St. Louis man charged in connection to fatal shooting

MARYLAND HEIGHTS, Mo. – Police responded to a report of a shooting in Maryland Heights Saturday evening. The victim is a teen and the suspect is a juvenile. The injuries are non-life-threatening.

The shooting happened in the 2100 block of Renault Drive. There is a large police presence where they are roping off the area.

This is a developing story and it will be updated as more information becomes available.

google news
Continue Reading

News

Missouri man gets life sentence for 2017 stabbing

Published

on

Missouri man charged in revenge killing; victim accused of sexually abusing child

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri man who fatally stabbed another man because he mistakenly thought the victim was part of a sex-trafficking ring has been sentenced to life in prison.

Christopher Manuel, 39, of Republic, was sentenced Friday for the 2017 killing of Bill Dauzat. He waived the right to a jury, and Judge Calvin Holden found him guilty in November of second-degree murder and armed criminal action after a bench trial.

According to court documents, Manuel stabbed Dauzat at least seven times in September 2017 outside of Dauzat’s Springfield home. Manuel claimed that he was acting in self-defense, but Holden said there wasn’t enough evidence to support that argument.

google news
Continue Reading

News

Keeler: CU Buffs against No. 9 UCLA were their own worst enemy. Again.

Published

on

No. 9 UCLA holds off CU Buffs

BOULDER — They’re just good enough to break your heart. The Baby Buffs had No. 9 UCLA on the ropes Saturday night. UCLA looked winded and wounded, forced to defend a 2-point lead with 25 seconds to go.

CU, having whittled a 17-point second-half Bruins lead to 65-63, had the ball and momentum. As the Events Center held its collective breath, Buffs freshman guard KJ Simpson got the rock with 18 seconds left, crashed the lane, steeled himself for contact, and let it fly.

Nada. UCLA escaped, 71-65. CU scrapped. Fought to the end.

If the NCAA Tournament’s selection committee judged rosters on guts, the Baby Buffs would be a 5 seed.

On smarts, though? On savvy? Not so much.

CU (12-6, 4-4 Pac-12) turned it over 21 times Saturday, which will get you beat against anybody, anywhere. Especially if those anybodys hail from Westwood.

Coach Mick Cronin’s Bruins aren’t just talented — they’re rooted in toughness, one of the core mantras Cronin brought over from Cincinnati three years ago.

The Bruins are also as handsy as they come, always poking, bumping, prodding. Against a young Buffs backcourt that came into the weekend averaging the third-most turnovers in the Pac-12 (13.4 per tilt), this one had the potential for disaster.

Sure enough, seven CU turnovers during a five-minute stretch midway through the first half turned a 22-20 UCLA lead into a 32-21 cushion with 3:47 to go until halftime.

The Bruins in first half outscored CU 18-0 off giveaways, 12-5 on second-chance points and 20-6 in the paint. The last five minutes of the first half and the opening five minutes of the second felt like the varsity (Bruins) against the JV (Buffs).

The kids kept swinging. Tristan Da Silva’s two putbacks pulled the hosts to within six, 53-47, with 8:12 left in the tilt. Jabari Walker’s emphatic and-1 with 3:49 to go lifted the hosts to within three, 58-55. Walker’s two-handed slam two minutes later made it 62-61 Bruins.

Still, nights like these are precious. So are the opportunities. The best thing about the Pac-12 this year is also the worst: It’s a top-heavy league, with three teams that look like Big Dance locks (Arizona, UCLA, USC), followed by a mad scramble to escape the mosh pit.

The best way to stand out from the crowd is “quality” wins, another stat in which the Buffs have been lacking come late January. Going into Saturday night, CU was 0-4 in games against so-called Quad 1 opponents, as determined by the NCAA’s NET metric — selection committee shorthand for how you’ve fared against teams likely to make the Big Dance.

Short version: A “Quad-1” win is defined as a home victory over a top 30 NET team; a neutral court victory over a top 50 NET team; and a road victory over a top 75 NET team.

The rest of CU’s fight card, alas, affords only two more opportunities on that front — at Washington State (NET rank as of Saturday: 60) next Sunday and home to Arizona (NET rank: 1) on Feb. 26. That’s it.

If the Buffs learn to take care of the ball, they’ve got the goods — certainly the talent — to hang with both. Center Lawson Lovering has the kind of ceiling only the eagles can touch. But the kid, bless him, looks like a deer in headlights out there half the time. In other words, like a freshman.

google news
Continue Reading

Trending