Road crews prepping Independence Pass

Staff report

Although snow is up to 3 feet deep, Independence Pass is on track to open by May 23, the Thursday before Memorial Day weekend, the Colorado Department of Transportation announced Friday.

However, the agency is warning that rain or snow could delay work. Crews haven’t been able to get to avalanche-control work as quickly as planned because of weather.

“We cannot clear snow past Old Town (Independence) until avalanche mitigation takes place,” said Don Poole, CDOT maintenance patrol supervisor on the west side of the pass.

The agency works with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center to clear as many as 12 slide paths that can affect the road. Not all the paths present a threat every spring. The avalanche center has informed CDOT that about 36 inches of snow covers the roadway on the west side of the pass. That is 83 percent of average for this time of year. On the east side of the pass, the snowpack is 21 inches, or 100 percent of average.

CDOT’s goal is to open Highway 82 over the pass at 2 p.m. May 23. Last year, mild conditions allowed it to open the pass May 11, about two weeks early. In 2011, the snowpack was 361 percent of average on the west side of Independence Pass, and special, heavy equipment was necessary to plow the road and open in May.