Pass improvements get under way; expect delays |

Pass improvements get under way; expect delays

John Colson

Anyone hoping to take a scenic drive over Independence Pass in the next few weeks might want to allot a little extra time for the trip.An erosion control and slope stabilization project, adjacent to Highway 82 over Independence Pass, started Monday and is expected to take at least three weeks, according to a project organizer.The work, which the Independence Pass Foundation is performing in conjunction with state and local agencies, will require traffic stops of 20 minutes or longer at various times throughout the day.The traffic delays are necessary because of the narrowness of the road as it passes through the project site, coupled with the need to move heavy equipment around the mountain road.In addition, the upper Lost Man Loop trailhead parking lot is being used to store rocks and dirt for the project. Parking there will be limited, if available at all, for several days. Work on the main project will include construction of a rock wall and retaining structure along approximately 450 feet of eroding road cuts near mile marker 60.Also, as part of a broader effort to stabilize the slopes around the road leading up to the summit, workers have been installing a reinforced “compost blanket” or soil slope near mile marker 61, about a mile west of the top of the pass.The compost blanket is a follow-up to a pilot project completed last year just downhill from this year’s site. The Pitkin County Solid Waste Center is supplying the compost.”The 2004 work resulted in a robust growth of native grasses where the compost was applied, so hopes are high that this success will be duplicated,” said Mark Fuller of the Independence Pass Foundation.The retaining structure is similar to a 600-foot wall built over seven years, from 1996 to 2003, in the area known as the “big cut” just downhill from this year’s project site, he said.The Independence Pass Foundation, a nonprofit organization based in Aspen, has been carrying out similar projects along the Independence Pass corridor for the last 15 years. It is coordinating the project with the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), which is providing financial and logistical support, and with the U.S. Forest Service and Pitkin County. Inmates from the Buena Vista Correctional Facility, as well as a crew from a contracted firm in Denver, are providing the labor.According to Fuller, the compost blanket project is expected to cost approximately $40,000, while the retaining structure is expected to cost around $200,000. Funding comes from the foundation and CDOT, which is contributing $50,000 in cash as well as traffic control services.The work will take place from about 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday.John Colson’s e-mail address is

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