Trucks take toll on Little Annie Road |

Trucks take toll on Little Annie Road

Jeremy Heiman

Heavy trucks hauling materials to the Sundeck construction project are taking their toll on Little Annie Road.

Little Annie Basin homeowners have complained to the Pitkin County Road and Bridge Department of deep ruts in the road, which make it nearly impassable even to four-wheel-drive vehicles.

Deputy Public Works Director Brian Pettet said Friday the rutting is a direct result of truck traffic serving the Aspen Skiing Co.’s construction project at the top of Aspen Mountain.

The road winds up to the top of Aspen Mountain on its back side, from Castle Creek Road.

“We have a drainage problem every spring,” Pettet said. “The difference is we have some heavy truck traffic on it this year.” The size and number of trucks has exceeded the design capacity of the road, which was built as a rural jeep road, he said.

Pettet said poor drainage allows water to pond up on the road and soak the soil. Several sections of the road have been affected. He said the Skico has been directed to correct the problem, and agreed to do so.

To correct the water retention, the Skico has been asked to clear some existing drainage swales (shallow ditches across the road, intended to carry water to the side) and to create some additional swales. Pettet’s department also directed the company to add coarse, crushed rock to the road in the muddy areas.

“We expect that this will solve the problem and that the rock they put there will embed in the soil and stabilize it,” Pettet said.

Ironically, the Skico is being ordered to fix a road that it must return to its former primitive state when the project is done.

Meanwhile, Little Annie homeowner Molly Heizer says the environmental damage caused by the trucks is of greater concern to her than the inconvenience caused by the ruts. She said the truck drivers, in an attempt to avoid the deepening ruts, are driving off the beaten part of the road and destroying spring plant growth at the road’s edge.

Heizer disagreed with the county’s reaction to the situation, contending the added swales and crushed rock improve the road for travel, in violation of the county’s Rural and Remote zone district, through which the road passes. She said the Skico has already applied about 20 dump-truck loads of crushed rock to the road.

Heizer said the breakdown of the road is an ideal way of ensuring the 10 mph speed limit is observed. “This is nature’s way of putting in speed bumps,” Heizer said.

The speed limit is among the conditions the county has placed on the Skico’s construction project. The company is building a new restaurant to replace the old Sundeck atop the mountain.

John Dufficy, also a Little Annie homeowner, blames the rut problems on the early plowing of the road, done to accommodate the Sundeck project. The Skico plowed the road so early in the season, most of the plowed snow remained on the roadside. As the snow melts, water drains onto the road and is caught in the ruts, soaking the soil rather than running off, he said.

Permission to plow, which also is not allowed in a Rural and Remote area, was granted by the county.

“What we have here is a great excuse for the Skico to go ahead and improve the road,” Dufficy said. That would ensure that it is suitable for future use by the company as well – something homeowners on the back of the mountain would prefer not to see.

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