According to statistics recently released by the Colorado State Patrol, traffic accidents in the Interstate 25 Gap construction zone have increased from more than 900 before the project to over 1,500 -- a 62% increase.
The CSP counted the number of crashes within the 18-mile widening project between Monument and Castle Rock. The increase covers the project's official start in September 2018 through the end of 2019.
Narrower lanes and the absence of shoulders along the highway are cited as factors in the increase.
But troopers say speeding through the 60 mph work zone, and drivers who follow too closely, are the main factors, as well as distracted driving -- such as texting and other smart phone usage -- in the narrow corridor.
"We've done all we can to promote safety and inform drivers that this is an 18-mile construction zone," said Trooper Sgt. Blake White. "We have an extra trooper patrolling the area. You may not see us, but we are pulling drivers over -- when we can find a safe place to do so. We're asking drivers to slow down. We need them to."
The Gap also has variable speed zones in some areas, in which officials can lower the speed limit based on weather, traffic volume and other situations.
The bright side of the CSP's data is that while crashes remain on an increasing trend, the number of crashes that result in injury or death is generally holding steady -- with three fatalities in 2017 and two last year.
Two crashes snarled traffic Wednesday evening on southbound I-25 near Tomah Road.
"I hate the congestion, especially when there's a crash," one driver said. "But I like the work that's being done. I just want it done soon. And I agree that drivers need to slow down through there."