Editorial: New bill would put brakes on Independence Pass truckers

Many Aspen residents and tourists have their own horror tales of being stuck on Independence Pass because an 18-wheeler couldn’t negotiate the tight curves and narrows of the popular leg of Highway 82.

Never mind that highly visible signs on both sides of the pass warn motorists that oversized and overweight vehicles are prohibited from using the pass, as are all vehicles or vehicle combinations longer than 35 feet.

Some truckers have taken the risk because they’re on tight deadlines to get to Aspen and other destinations, and the current $500 fine isn’t a significant enough penalty to force them to take the longer route to Aspen, by way of Glenwood Springs on Highway 82.

Enter House Bill D, which seeks to fine rogue truckers $2,000 and assess them two license suspension points for each violation. On Thursday, Colorado’s legislative council cleared the bill to go to the House as part of the 2014 session.

Working behind the scenes on the bill has been state Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village. Schwartz told The Aspen Times on Wednesday that the “bill addresses what we need to defer people from abusing the pass. It’s a real safety issue to our citizens.”

Ten-four to that.

Most people enjoy Independence Pass for its scenery and access to some of Colorado’s most spectacular hiking trails, premier camping areas and numerous other recreational opportunities. It isn’t supposed to be a fast track for big rigs en route to Aspen. And truckers who think that put not only themselves in harm’s way but other motorists, as well.

House Bill D will send a strong message that this can’t be tolerated any longer. A $500 fine is one thing; a $2,000 penalty will make truckers second guess any notions of using Independence Pass.