Bikers beware the gritty road |

Bikers beware the gritty road

Charles Agar
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” Highway 82 up Independence Pass is gritty with gravel from recent chip sealing.

Colorado Department of Transportation crews on Monday applied gravel and tar from mile markers 50 to 54, a few miles beyond the winter closure gate and the Weller campground, east of Aspen.

“It’s no good for road biking for a while,” said avid cyclist Gerry Sullivan, who was frustrated that he had to turn around on his way up the pass Tuesday.

Chip sealing is a way to protect the highway without doing a full repaving job, according to CDOT spokeswoman Nancy Shanks.

And CDOT crews need to mind their budgets as well as asphalt, which is currently in short supply, she said.

Crews lay tar and gravel over existing asphalt, then sweep the mixture into cracks and later apply a sealant.

“It should be nice and smooth when they’re all done,” she said, adding that it takes a while for vehicle traffic to tamp down the gravel.

The road surface is “a little gravelly,” Shanks said, adding crews will do one more sweep of the section in coming weeks.

“Cyclists have a hard time with chip seals for sure,” she said.

It’s been about 10 years since the road up the pass was repaved with asphalt.

And with the recent asphalt shortage, as oil producers convert every bit of usable oil to diesel, chip sealing offers more bang for the buck and is thus a common, cost-effective maintenance practice to help keep roads in good shape.

“It buys us some time,” Shanks said.

Not everyone is a fan of the effect, however.

Motorists worry about gravel nicking the panels of their cars, and cyclists on road bikes struggle, according to Mark Fuller, director of the Independence Pass Foundation.

Fuller’s organization does maintenance on the scenic byway ” everything short of road resurfacing, which is up to CDOT, he said. And though he’s heard no complaints about the recent work, he said they’re common.

“Every time it happens in this valley there are complaints,” Fuller said.

Fuller said chip sealing is often a necessary evil to keep a road in good shape.

“It is cost-effective when there aren’t any better alternatives out there.”

Highway 82 over Independence Pass recently was designated a state scenic byway, and a federal scenic byway designation is pending, Fuller said.

If accepted as a national scenic byway, the route would be eligible for federal funds and grant programs that could go toward road improvements.

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