Highway 82 paving snarls traffic | AspenTimes.com

Highway 82 paving snarls traffic

Joel Stonington

Traffic outside Aspen was ugly Wednesday, and tempers were as hot as the freshly-laid asphalt.

A steady stream of middle fingers were directed at the crew paving a stretch of Highway 82 between the roundabout and the S-curves yesterday, and some motorists drove across just-laid pavement.

Workers said one flagger was nearly run over and that numerous people drove across the still-hot pavement (it can reach 310 degrees) in order to reach a driveway or side road.

“There was one guy who actually got out of his car and threatened to beat up one of the workers,” said Curt Grieser, one of the pavers. “I think I’ve seen it more here than in other places.”

The Colorado State Patrol was summoned to direct traffic and keep the peace.

“We’re just trying to keep everyone sane,” said State Patrol Sgt. Dean Garcia, who acknowledged there were threats directed at members of the paving crew.

“People’s tempers get upset. Threats are usually made in the form of gestures and the such,” he said.

The Colorado Department of Transportation began the paving work Wednesday amid heavy weekday traffic, resulting in lengthy travel delays for motorists. The project continues today, with backups into town this morning stretching as far as the Aspen Business Center, according to one commuter.

During the paving operation, traffic is reduced to one lane of alternating traffic, with flaggers letting 100 to 200 vehicles through at a time.

CDOT intended to complete the paving project last weekend, but Saturday’s work was canceled because of the weather, according to agency spokeswoman Nancy Shanks. Sunday’s work was reduced somewhat as a result of the relatively high number of vehicles going in and out of town.

“CDOT crews and traffic-control staff do understand the inconveniences this is causing motorists,” the agency said in a press release issued Wednesday afternoon. “Paving in a high-traffic, two-lane area is very challenging to motorists and workers alike.”

The agency hopes to wrap up the paving today, or Friday at the latest, Shanks said, though other work ” utilities, and pavement striping and markings ” will continue through October, causing minor traffic impacts. There will be single-lane closures and/or periodic traffic stops around the work, but the impacts won’t be nearly as significant to traffic flow as this week’s paving, according to CDOT.

Motorists can check CDOT’s construction information line at (970) 309-4973 for updated information, or go to http://www.sh82.com.

Joel Stonington’s e-mail address is jstonington@aspentimes.com

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