Highway 82 reopens to traffic | AspenTimes.com

Highway 82 reopens to traffic

Janet Urquhart

Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times

The final vehicle has been cleared from this morning’s multivehicle pileup on Highway 82 and authorities have reopened the downvalley lanes to travel.

Downvalley Highway 82 remains closed at the site of this morning’s multivehicle crash. Authorities are now saying it will be another 15 to 20 minutes before it will reopen.

In the meantime, traffic is being diverted onto River Road at Smith Hill Way, but one motorist called The Aspen Times to report a traffic backup and lengthy delay upvalley of the detour point.

The RFTA bus driver injured in a Highway 82 pileup this morning has been admitted to Aspen Valley Hospital in fair condition.

No details on her injuries are available, but she reportedly suffered a leg injury after being pinned up against the dash, according to Dan Blankenship, chief executive officer of the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority.

“It’s very heartening to hear she’s in fair condition,” he said. “That’s just fantastic news.”

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The downvalley lanes of the highway remain closed, as a jackknifed Coca-Cola truck involved in the accident has not yet been removed.

Most details regarding the individuals involved remain unavailable; the Colorado State Patrol has yet to issue a report.

The injuries suffered by a RFTA bus driver in a Highway 82 pileup are still being evaluated at Aspen Valley Hospital.

No condition report on the driver, Stephanie Varley, is yet available, a hospital spokeperson said.

In addition to four accident victims from the crash involving the bus, two trucks and other vehicles, the hospital’s emergency room has been busy with other, unrelated accident injuries, the spokesperson said.

The downvalley lanes of Highway 82 remain closed to travel; motorists, including Roaring Fork Transportation Authority buses, are being detoured onto River Road at Smith Hill Way.

Authorities hope to have the highway back open within the next hour, before large numbers of commuters begin heading downvalley. The bus and a jacknifed truck are blocking the highway, which turned slick when temperatures dropped during light snowfall this morning, creating “black ice,” according to Brian Pettet, director of Pitkin County’s Public Works Department.

“The temperature just fell off the table and everything froze. It’s hard to catch up when that happens,” he said.

Colorado Department of Transportation trucks have been out in full force, spreading magnesium chloride, Pettet said. The county has not been asked to augment CDOT efforts to treat the highway with the de-icer, he said.

Multiple fender benders and vehicles sliding off Highway 82 have kept police agencies up and down the valley occupied throughout the day. Eastbound Interstate 70 had been closed in Glenwood Canyon, but has reopened.

The driver who spent about an hour trapped in a crashed RFTA bus may be the mostly seriously hurt of the individuals who were on the bus.

There were five to seven passengers in the vehicle, according to Dan Blankenship, chief executive officer of the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority. Of them, apparently only a couple of people requested medical transport, he said. RFTA personnel on the scene did not believe any of the passengers suffered life-threatening injuries, he said.

The extent of driver Stephanie Varley’s injuries is not yet known. The total number of injured parties among the various motorists involved in the accident is also not yet known.

A spokesperson at Aspen Valley Hospital said four victims in all have been taken there for evaluation so far. None have been transported to Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs, a spokesperson there said.

Blankenship was relieved to hear rescuers had extricated the driver from the bus and that none of the passengers appeared to be seriously injured.

“I’m just hoping and praying right now that she (Varley) is going to be OK,” he said. “She was in there for quite some time.”

While cleanup at the accident scene continues, falling snow and slick conditions have resulted in multiple accidents on the highway.

Rescue personnel have freed a bus driver who had been trapped in the vehicle after a seven-vehicle pileup on Highway 82 this morning.

Rescuers were forced to pry the driver out of the front of the bus, freeing her at 12:14 p.m. The extent of her injuries is unknown. A number of passengers on the Glenwood Springs-bound bus were also hurt and have been transported to a local hospital, according to Aspen Times reporter Joel Stonington, who is on the scene.

The accident apparently occurrred when both a Windriver Trees dump truck and a Coca-Cola delivery truck pulled out to pass an Acura Integra traveling in the right-hand lane. The two trucks collided; a Roaring Fork Transportation Authority bus and the Coke truck then collided. The impact blew out the bus windshield and ripped the door off, Stonington said. In all, seven vehicles wound up colliding.

The Coke truck is now jackknifed and blocking both lanes of the highway; the bus is also blocking the highway and both vehicles are inoperable.

Local authorities are on the scene; Colorado State Patrol troopers have yet to reach the accident, which occurred near Gerbaz Way, below the turnoff to the Pitkin County Landfill.

Authorities are estimating the downvalley lanes of Highway 82 will be closed for three hours to clear up an accident involving a Roaring Fork Transit Agency bus and the resulting traffic jam.

Motorists are being diverted onto River Road, but it is reportedly slick, as well. Semi-trucks are not being allowed onto narrow, twisting River Road and are lining up at the detour point; drivers of the big rigs are being told they’ll have a three-hour wait.

Police are advising motorists not to travel downvalley if they don’t have to.

The bus accident scene on Highway 82 is near Gerbaz Way. Officers are also clearing up a multicar accident at Brush Creek Road.

Further details will be posted as they become available.

The westbound lanes of Highway 82 have been closed at Gerbaz Way, where a Roaring Fork Transportation Authority bus has apparently been involved in an accident involving several vehicles.

There are reportedly injuries; police are attempting to clear traffic that has backed up at the scene.

Snow has begun falling in the upper Roaring Fork Valley, creating slick conditions.

Details on the accident will be posted as they become available.