County puts halt to trucking detours
The county is on the verge of passing new restrictions on large trucks that use back roads in the midvalley to avoid highway construction.
Pitkin County commissioners agreed Wednesday that large trucks, including dump trucks and tractor-trailers, should be banned from East Sopris Creek Road and Watson Divide Road unless they are bound for addresses in the areas served by those roads.
Watson Divide Road connects Highway 82 at Gerbazdale with Snowmass Creek Road a mile from its intersection with Capitol Creek Road. East Sopris Creek Road is about eight miles long, connecting Capitol Creek Road with Highway 82 in Emma. Commuters and truckers have used the route as a way to get around highway construction in Basalt and Snowmass Canyon.
“Traffic on East Sopris Creek Road has more than quadrupled in the last three or four years,” said Brian Pettet, the county’s deputy director of Public Works. That means 1,000 cars a day pass in each direction along the narrow, dirt roads.
Pettet said the idea for a truck ban came from the Sheriff’s Office. On several spots along both roads, cars are forced to the shoulder when a truck is coming in the opposite direction, and sheriff’s deputies fear that someone will be hurt, given the steep drop-offs alongside the road.
“The large trucks are simply too wide and long to safely navigate the winding narrow roads,” Pettet wrote in a memo to county commissioners. “In many locations, the trucks take up more than half the road.”
The new ordinance, which is set for public hearing on July 28, will allow deputies to write tickets to truck drivers who are trying to avoid highway construction. The fines for violating the new law have not been disclosed.
If adopted, the new ordinance will also mean a new stop signs along East Sopris Creek Road. Traffic merging from East Sopris Creek Road onto Capitol Creek Road will be required to stop. At the three-way intersection of East Sopris Creek Road and West Sopris Creek Road, signs will be installed to require traffic crossing from one to the other to stop. Travelers along East Sopris Creek Road will be given the right of way through the intersection.
The commissioners praised Pettet for the timeliness of the new ordinance, which comes just as they began to hear complaints about trucks on both roads.
“Once the highway work is completed and the volumes drop off, we’ll probably repeal the ordinance,” Pettet said.
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