Independence Pass could stay open until Thanksgiving
The Aspen Times
Independence Pass may be open until as late as Thanksgiving this year because of the upcoming closure of the Grand Avenue Bridge in Glenwood Springs, a CDOT spokesperson said Friday.
How late the pass stays open will depend on the weather, said Tracy Trulove of the Colorado Department of Transportation. Department officials will defer to personnel at the Colorado Avalanche Information Center to make determinations about weather safety of snow conditions, she said.
“If [conditions] are OK … then our team will work to continue to maintain it,” Trulove said.
Independence Pass usually closes around the first week of November and doesn’t open again until Memorial Day Weekend.
However, the Grand Avenue Bridge is scheduled to close Aug. 14 and remain closed for up to 95 days, which pushes right up to Thanksgiving, while construction crews replace it. In order to keep delays to a minimum, officials need to remove 700 cars from the current traffic flow by various means, said Kathleen Wanatowicz, a spokesperson for the project.
Officials are also warning businesses to adjust delivery schedules and minimize supply deliveries between Aug. 14 and Thanksgiving, Wanatowicz told members of the Elected Officials Transportation Committee on Thursday.
Pitkin County commissioners are particularly worried about truck traffic attempting to avoid delays in Glenwood Springs coming over Independence Pass from the Lake County side. Trucks longer than 35 feet are not allowed to drive over the Pass because some cannot make it through the narrow sections.
However, despite numerous signs and threats of a more than $1,000 fine, truckers continue to blindly follow GPS instructions or simply ignore the signs and attempt to drive over the pass. Already this season — the pass only opened on the Thursday before Memorial Day weekend — officials have had to deal with seven truckers who attempted to drive the pass, said Pitkin County Capt. Alex Burchetta.
“If it’s reasonable and safe, why not keep it open,” Burchetta said.
Commissioners on Tuesday asked Pitkin County Public Works Director Brian Pettet to ask CDOT to keep the pass open, though he also warned that if the snow flies early, the pass will close.
“If a big winter storm happens in early November, they’re going to have to close it,” he said.
Because of a lack of money at CDOT and in Lake County, commissioners debated Tuesday whether to pay to post signs on the Twin Lakes side of the pass, possibly hire someone to sit on that side and keep an eye on the trucks or even purchase a video camera to collect evidence of truck traffic.
“It’s a huge public safety issue,” Commissioner Patti Clapper said.
However, Pitkin County Manager Jon Peacock said CDOT has installed numerous signs in the Glenwood Springs area, as well as others along Highway 24 in and around Leadville.