Stop lights cause morning traffic jam on the way into Aspen |

Stop lights cause morning traffic jam on the way into Aspen

Two malfunctioning traffic lights on the way into Aspen caused a massive traffic jam Tuesday morning that backed up cars on Highway 82 for more than two miles, according to a sheriff’s deputy.

The lights at Harmony Road and Owl Creek Road generally only change when cars are waiting to turn on to Highway 82, said Pitkin County Sheriff’s Deputy Jesse Steindler. However, on Tuesday morning, the Owl Creek light was automatically changing every two minutes, he said.

“It was creating a terrible backup all the way to Shale Bluffs,” Steindler said.

Deputies noticed the traffic building up between 8 and 9 a.m., but when it got substantially worse around 9:30 — Shale Bluffs is about two and a half miles west of Owl Creek — deputies stepped in, he said.

“We did something we do not like to do,” Steindler said. “We stationed deputies at Owl Creek Road and Harmony and manually let eastbound traffic through.”

Even then, however, it still took an hour to clear up the jam, he said. The Sheriff’s Office doesn’t like to station deputies at intersections because of safety concerns, he said.

The heavy morning traffic included commuters, children on the way to school and travelers heading for the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport, Steindler said.

Once the traffic cleared, deputies left the area, though the two lights continued to change frequently, he said. A crew from the Colorado Department of Transportation was supposed to come to fix them Tuesday afternoon or today.

Steindler said he wasn’t worried about evening rush hour because the lights were not affecting westbound traffic. However, if the lights were not fixed Tuesday, a similar situation might occur this morning, he said.

“My advice to the public is leave early,” Steindler said.

This wasn’t the first time the Sheriff’s Office has run into problems with the two traffic lights, Steindler said.

“It always happens this time of year,” he said. “It could be something to do with the temperature.”

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