Ron from Denver writes, “What’s driving you crazy? I was driving across Broncos Parkway at Chambers Road when the State Patrol blocked off the intersection for several minutes while they were escorting the Denver Broncos in eight buses speeding along Chambers. There were several officers in cars and on motorcycles blocking intersections, darting in and out of the buses, and interfering with traffic flow. First, who paid the bill on this? Does that include the use and wear and tear of taxpayer vehicles? What gives them the right to block traffic like this and run red lights? Above all, it created a dangerous situation. I would appreciate some answers.”
The answer is fairly simple Ron, it has to do with security. When you or I go to Denver International Airport, we have to pass through a TSA security screening. Since the team doesn't fly like you and me, that process is different for the Denver Broncos when they go on the road for a game. Imagine what it would be like to screen all the equipment, coaches and players that travel to road games with the Denver Broncos. To make the process easier, the team doesn’t get screened at the airport, they bring the TSA to them. Lorie Dankers with the TSA tells me they have TSA officers at Broncos headquarters in Arapahoe County conducting the same screening for the team personnel they would give you and me at the airport.
“The screening process can take place in a variety of locations per TSA requirements and regulations,” says Dankers. “The methods vary, but can include the use of technology, physical search or other methods to screen travelers and personal property.”
Most major sports teams use private charters and have for many years. The TSA tells me officially the charter airline hired by the team has the responsibility of providing security screening that adheres to TSA’s security standards.
“They work with TSA to ensure they are in compliance with those standards and TSA has the ability from a regulatory standpoint to unpredictably inspect the process and ensure adherence with the security standards,” says Dankers.
“This safe, efficient and environmentally responsible way to transport the team to the airport is commonplace in the NFL, and throughout professional sports and has been standard procedure for decades,” says Megan Boyle, communications strategist for the Denver Broncos.
The reason for the State Patrol escort is to comply with the federal requirement that after a TSA screening, a secure perimeter is maintained and that includes when the screening is conducted away from an airport. The Broncos pay the Colorado State Patrol to escort the personnel buses to the airport for all road games. Typically, the detail includes five troopers in marked or unmarked CSP cars and or a CSP motorcycle.
“The troopers' time is paid by the team and we also charge for the use of the vehicles, which includes wear and tear,” says CSP Trooper Josh Lewis.
Megan Boyle with the Broncos wouldn’t tell me how much the team pays for the State Patrol time and equipment, nor for the added security screening at the team headquarters.
The way the rolling closure works is the lead trooper pulls out from the Broncos facility to block all southbound traffic on Potomac Street. Then, the rest of the troopers race over to the first intersection at E. Broncos Parkway at S. Potomac Street to hold traffic in all four directions. Then come the eight team buses making the right turn to head south on Potomac. The team buses will roll through the intersection held by troopers even if they have a red light. After the last bus gets on the road, the first trooper jumps back into his car and speeds down the road, lights on, to catch up to the motorcade. The motorcade is allowed to continue past any red light on their way to the E-470 toll road. The buses and patrol continue south, now along Chambers Avenue, blocking cross traffic along the way until they can make the turn onto northbound E-470.
Once on the tollway, the buses move over to the left lane while three of the five troopers, with lights on, speed up to each next interchange entrance ramp to hold traffic briefly from entering the tollway. The other two troopers remain behind, also with lights on. One trooper stays right behind the last bus, the other positioned to slow any and all drivers who might think it is a good idea to pass the motorcade. I watched as the last trooper mostly stayed in the middle lane but would drift to the left or to the right if a driver attempted to pass the motorcade.
Each bus is charged the 3-axle toll rate and that rate is determined by if the charter company has a transponder for ExpressToll or uses license plate tolling. There are also two different rates for 3-axle vehicles depending on time of day using E-470. The ExpressToll rate for each bus between 9:00 am and Noon would run $8.45 since the buses pass through plaza’s B and C. The toll charge between Noon and 9:00 am the next day rise up to $10.45. If the charter company used license plate tolling (unlikely) the tolls would jump up to $17.70 for that ride between Chambers and Pena Blvd. As far as the CSP, all emergency vehicles registered with the E-470 Public Highway Authority are exempt from E-470 tolls.
The buses exit E-470 onto Peña Boulevard, continuing toward the terminal but exit early at Jackson Gap as they head to Signature Flight Support where their private charter aircraft was waiting.
“We may block traffic briefly to keep the vehicles together for security purposes,” says Lewis. “A rolling closure like this one requires less manpower than using troopers at every intersection to direct traffic. Once the vehicles have safely made it through the intersections and onto the highway, we shut down emergency lighting unless it is necessary to use again for the safety and security of all.”
The state patrol is discussing a change in the motorcade route. Troopers are concerned that there are too many new homes and bike riders along the current route, coming close one time to a person on a bike. The new rout would run the team down Potomac and take a right at Dove Valley Regional Park to continue on south Potomac. The road changes to County Line Road as it briefly turns west. The motorcade would then turn south on Peoria Street and then access E-470. One reason troopers prefer the new route is there are fewer vehicles since the area is more industrial than residential.
Bob Eller, Baltimore Ravens senior vice president of operations, told the Bleacher Report that all NFL teams go through a similar screening at the stadium after an away game.
"After the game, we get screened at the stadium prior to boarding the buses, then are escorted by police to the aircraft. All airlines hire TSA-trained screening companies that supply the personnel and equipment to properly screen the travelers," he said.
TSA tells me people traveling with the Broncos on the charter are subject to the same liquid quantity restriction of 3.4 ounces or 100 ml just like you and me are at the airport. The TSA added that the federal face mask requirement also applies to the team and anywhere within the public transportation system.
(This is an updated version of a previous story originally published September, 2021)
Denver7 traffic anchor Jayson Luber says he has been covering Denver-metro traffic since Ben-Hur was driving a chariot. (We believe the actual number is over 25 years.) He's obsessed with letting viewers know what's happening on their drive and the best way to avoid the problems that spring up. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram or listen to his Driving You Crazy podcast on iTunes , Stitcher , iHeart, Spotify or Podbean.