Semi driver avoiding Glenwood Springs bridge traffic busted on Independence Pass
A semi-truck driver learned Wednesday that navigating over Independence Pass might save time, but it also will cost money.
Pitkin County Sheriff’s deputies cited driver Louis Zacarias Perez, 36, at approximately 9:55 a.m. near the Lost Man area of the scenic stretch of Highway 82. Perez was slapped with a $1,000 fine because he was driving a vehicle longer than 35 feet, said Deputy Jesse Steindler, a patrol supervisor for the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office.
The driver told authorities he used the pass to avoid the traffic delays spawned by the Glenwood Springs bridge construction work.
“It was a number of things (on why Perez used the pass), but in his world the bridge was paramount in terms of why he did it,” Steindler said. “He also said that Google indicated that was the way he could go.”
The Colorado Department of Transportation’s big-rig warning signs on the Pitkin County side of the pass also didn’t deter him, Steindler said.
“This was egregious,” he said. “There are CDOT signs warning anything above 35 feet. He said he saw the signs, but he couldn’t get away with it.”
Deputies sent the driver on his way after he was ticketed, Steindler said. Driving for Silver Trucking LLC, Zacarias Perez was eastbound toward Twin Lakes, and it would have made no sense to reroute him toward Aspen, Steindler said.
“As far as I’m concerned, the worst places are on this side (the Aspen side) of the pass,” he said. “In other words, he had already passed the really bad spots and he was within 4 to 6 miles from the top (of the pass).”
Another motorist had tipped off authorities that a semi was near the Grottos area, prompting deputies to respond, Steindler said.
Work on the Glenwood bridge began Monday and is expected to last three months. Independence Pass, a state highway, traditionally closes by Nov. 7 at the latest, but inclement weather can force CDOT to close it earlier.
Wednesday’s citation was the first so far related to a big-rig trying to avoid the construction delays by using the pass, Steinder said. It likely won’t be the last.
“I think it’s going to be a complete cluster,” Karin Teague, executive director of the Independence Pass Foundation, told The Aspen Times in May. “We’re anticipating a huge increase in use of the pass.”
The Colorado Legislature passed a law in 2014 increasing the fine for large trucks on the pass from $500 to $1,000 to try and curb the practice. Drivers of big rigs that cause traffic delays or road closures face fines of $1,500.
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The city of Aspen’s new Lumberyard housing project will necessitate a new traffic light on Highway 82 by Builders FirstSource and Mountain Rescue Aspen.