Michael McLaughlin
The Aspen Times

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May 20, 2014
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Independence Pass, outside of Aspen, expected to open on Thursday

Colorado Department of Transportation crews have been working from daylight to dark in an effort to clear the way for an on-target opening of Independence Pass at 2 p.m. on Thursday, just in time for the Memorial Day weekend crowds.

However, avalanche-control work was completed just last week, as it was the first time weather permitted crews to get to the areas requiring a control mission, CDOT said Tuesday.

Independence Pass is a scenic stretch of Highway 82 that links Aspen to Twin Lakes. It typically opens in time for Memorial Day weekend and usually closes some time in October because of snowy conditions.

CDOT crews work with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center to clear as many as a dozen slide paths that can impact the road. Not all of the paths present a threat each spring. However, according to the most recent avalanche-center report by area forecaster Rob Hunker, snowpack on the pass Tuesday was at 198 percent of an average year.

With the avalanche-control mission completed, crews on the ground must now address the task of clearing the snow that came down the avalanche slide paths. Necessary work to open the gates may include clearing the avalanche slide paths (as many as 12 total), clearing snow, ice and other debris from the roadway and shoulders and hauling out loads of rock debris from the ditches.

Crews also will need to reset barriers and replace any barriers that may have been damaged. They’ll also repair or replace damaged signs, guardrails and roadside delineators as well as patch potholes and trim overgrown and damaged trees and brush.

“The most time-consuming of our spring activities is clearing the roadway of all the hard snow, ice and debris that can be brought down with avalanche mitigation,” said Marc Quintana, who supervises CDOT crews. “Once we clear the highway and ensure the safety of the slide paths, any repair work can begin.”

Updated road conditions are available at www.cotrip.org, by visiting www.coloradodot.info and choosing the green phone icon in the upper right-hand corner or by calling 511 from anywhere in the state.

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The Aspen Times Updated May 21, 2014 03:30PM Published May 21, 2014 05:01PM Copyright 2014 The Aspen Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.