COLORADO SPRINGS — The Fourth of July weekend typically starts the busiest part of the summer travel season with tens of thousands of cars out on the road. From July 1 through July 5 of last summer, the Colorado Department of Transportation counted some 220,598 vehicles passed through the Eisenhower and Johnson tunnels along Interstate 70.
That many vehicles will inevitably lead to breakdowns and whenthe breakdowns happen on I-25, there's a good chance the drivers will meet Jason Manley.
He's a safety patrol operator driving one of the red and white trucks covered with C-DOT and State Farm stickers.
"We just try to help people as much as possible to try and keep the highway clear," Manley said.
There are 20 patrol zones along I-25 between the South Academy Boulevard exit and the town of Loveland north of Denver. Four located in the Colorado Springs metro area. Manley typically patrols between the North Academy Boulevard exit and Monument Hill.
Only a slow day, he might only help one stranded motorist. On a busy day, it can be 20 or more.
"I have everything. I have water, I have gas, I have a jack, I have an air compressor, I have tools, cones for setting up an emergency zone."
Manley worked as a mechanic earlier in his career, but the side of the road is no place for repairs. Most of the time, with a little gas or water, he can get cars moving again, at least to to a safer place to wait for help.
"Occasionally we get somebody, especially if they've been in an accident, they may be a little upset. But we do our best to try and calm them down, but everybody we meet out on the highway, they love to see us."
The Safety Operators will log some basic information on a smartphone app about each time they stop to assit a motorist. The data generated by those field reports are shared by C-DOT and the Federal Highway Administration to help make better decisions about highway safety needs.
In anticipation of all the extra traffic this weekend, C-DOT said that construction on state highways projects will stop on Wednesday at noon. That work will resume on Monday July 8