Officials say Loveland Pass barricades were a success
The Colorado Department of Transportation filled a couple of Loveland Pass pullouts with snow Sunday in an effort to prevent illegal parking and dangerous driving conditions, and officials say the closures likely will last weeks.
Parking in recreation areas has become a major issue for CDOT and law enforcement since statewide COVID-19 closures went into effect last month, driving residents and Front Range visitors to popular gathering areas in the Colorado Rockies. But things hit a tipping point last weekend.
“This has been a reoccurring problem and a growing problem,” CDOT communications manager Elise Thatcher said. “We’ve been working with the Department of Natural Resources and the Colorado State Patrol to try and reach as many people as possible to let them know you really have to be careful where you park on the pass because it’s critical to allow hazmat vehicles to pass through safely. … We’ve been trying to reach people about this issue for several weeks now. And it’s a situation where it’s actually getting worse.”
On Sunday, CDOT closed down two parking areas — essentially pullouts that have turned into parking lots for skiers, one at the top of the pass and another at the first hairpin turn near Loveland Ski Area — that overflowed with cars Saturday and had become dangerous for truckers making their way over the pass.
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Colorado State Patrol Capt. Jared Rapp said they received a complaint from a concerned truck driver Friday, and that Saturday looked like a repeat of the first weekend following the issuance of the public health order, when large crowds first started packing backcountry hot spots.
Thatcher also said there were reports of a number of people physically standing and “hanging out” in the roadway.
“On Saturday, there was very heavy skier traffic and lots of difficulty for commercial motor vehicles trying to get through there,” Rapp said. “Those barricades were put in place as a last resort.”
Thatcher said there were conversations about potentially using cones but that CDOT ultimately decided to plow in snow berms so that they couldn’t be moved or lost. Officials say the method was useful in helping to prevent illegal parking and tight squeezes for truckers.
“It was successful,” Thatcher said. “We had supervisors up there on Sunday doing the rounds to see what the impact was, and they did not see anyone blocking the lanes. Traffic was able to move smoothly, and hazmat vehicles weren’t affected or delayed.”
Thatcher said similar measures were recently taken on Vail Pass at the end of March, and both Thatcher and Rapp listed Berthoud Pass as another of the state’s major trouble areas.
Thatcher continued to say that the parking areas likely wouldn’t be reopened for a couple weeks until the snow melts or openings are requested by law enforcement.
“If people stay in designated parking areas and off the roadways, then it makes the job easier, allowing these roadways to stay open,” Rapp said. “If we don’t have a safe traffic flow, we have to take measures to ensure that we do. If that means closing parking lots, we will close parking lots.”
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