Fines may go up for rogue truckers on Independence Pass | AspenTimes.com

Fines may go up for rogue truckers on Independence Pass

Michael McLaughlin
The Aspen Times

Truckers who illegally cross Independence Pass next summer might be paying a minimum fine of $2,000 for the convenience.

House Bill D was written to address the problem of large trucks illegally crossing the pass. The bill includes wording that specifically states someone operating a commercial vehicle "on state Highway 82 between US Route 24 and the city of Aspen is subject to an enhanced penalty as set forth in this section."

Independence Pass, which typically is open from Memorial Day through mid-November, is the popular stretch of Highway 82 that connects Twin Lakes to Aspen. Oversized and overweight vehicles are prohibited from using the pass, as are all vehicles or vehicle combinations longer than 35 feet, regardless of weight or size. Signs have warned drivers of large trucks that are probihited from using the pass, but that hasn't stopped some of those truckers who prefer the pass shortcut to Aspen versus using Highway 82 via Glenwood Springs.

Some spots of the road are windy and narrow, which have created difficulties for large trucks. Some truckers have found their vehicles stuck on the road because of its narrow features, leading to road closures.

Meanwhile, the bill includes wording that raises the current $500 fine for an operator of a commercial vehicle who violates a road closure or restriction on Independence Pass to $2,000.

State Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village, met with the Pitkin Board of County Commissioners in September and heard their concern about the safety issues concerning commercial vehicles illegally crossing Independence Pass.

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Those concerns prompted Schwartz to make the initial request to the Transportation Legislation Review Committee to look into the issue and worked with the committee on the wording of the bill.

"The bill addresses what we need to defer people from abusing the pass," Schwartz said. "It's a real safety issue to our citizens."

The review committee approved the wording of House Bill D on Oct. 29.

State Rep. Max Tyler, D-Lakewood, the chair of the committee, will present the bill to the legislative council at 9 a.m. today.

"The legislative council will determine whether or not the bill falls under the purview of the review committee," said Kristin Johnson, the fiscal analyst for the legislative council staff. "If it does, the bill will move forward to a vote by both houses in the upcoming legislative session. If not, it essentially will go nowhere."

The $2,000 fine also includes two license suspension points for the vehicle operator for each violation.

If a driver gets too many points against their driving record within a certain period of time, they will lose their driver's license determined by a point system. For example, if a driver age 21 and older receives 12 suspension points in a 12-month period, a suspension is required.

Bill D also states that if the violation also includes the closure of a travel lane, the fine is increased to $2,500.

If the bill moves forward, is approved by both houses and signed by the Governor, there would still be a 90-day waiting period to allow the public to petition the bill.

The bill is sponsored by state Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush, D-Steamboat Springs, state Rep. Randy Fisher, D-Fort Collins and Tyler.

mmclaughlin@aspentimes.com