Many truckers ignore Independence Pass warnings |

Many truckers ignore Independence Pass warnings

Deputy Erin Smiddy of the Pitkin County Sheriff's department directs three tractor trailors to turn around and take the detour once they reach the Independence Pass Winter closure gate.
Jeremy Wallace |

About 20 semi-truck and oversized-vehicle drivers trying to find a way around the Glenwood Canyon closure attempted to drive up Independence Pass on Wednesday but were stopped by Pitkin County sheriff’s deputies.

That’s according to Alex Burchetta, director of operations for the Sheriff’s Office, who said most of the vehicles were stopped at the winter closure gate east of town. Deputies also intercepted one truck in town and one near Buttermilk Mountain, asked the drivers where they were going, then turned them around when they indicated they were headed for the pass, he said.

The Sheriff’s Office posted a deputy at the winter closure gate all day, Burchetta said.

“It would have been chaos on the Pass if we hadn’t had somebody there,” he said. “History has shown that (drivers) miss the signs.”

Aspen police officers also chipped in by contacting semi-truck drivers at the stop sign at South Original Street and East Cooper Avenue near City Market, Burchetta said.

Vehicles more than 35-feet long are not allowed on Independence Pass because the road is too narrow and curvy to accommodate them.

Traffic through Aspen was heavier than normal but did not cause significant problems, Burchetta said.

Assistant Aspen Police Chief Bill Linn said a three-car accident occurred near Maroon Creek Bridge about 10:30 a.m., but that was the only crash as of late afternoon. Eastbound morning traffic was backed up beyond the airport but cleared up toward the end of the day, he said. Other backups occurred near Original curve, Linn said.

“It was not insane all day,” he said. “Traffic was heavier than usual but not quite as outrageous as we feared.

“But we saw quite a few large trucks on the way through town, then we saw them coming back through town.”

Between 300 and 500 cars an hour pass through Glenwood Canyon in each direction, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation. The canyon was closed between 9 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. so crews could install anti-rockfall equipment. It also was supposed to be closed today, though those plans were called off (see related story on page A7).

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