Traffic seemingly back to normal on Independence Pass after brief closure

Austin Colvert, Aspen Times
Vehicles more than 35 feet in length aren’t currently allowed to use Independence Pass.
Kelsey Brunner, Aspen Times

The Independence Pass floodgates were reopened to passenger vehicles Friday night after a brief and contested closure, but the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office said Saturday went as well as it could have with a new metering system in place.

“Everything is running very, very smoothly,” deputy Bruce Benjamin said Saturday evening. “We have the flaggers metering at the narrow section, which is providing a great deal of extra safety and convenience for people.”

The pass was closed to all traffic Wednesday in response to a surge of vehicles seeking a way across the state after the Grizzly Creek Fire closed parts of Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon. On top of an influx of normal traffic looking to get over the pass, local officials had increasing issues with larger vehicles, notably semi-trucks, trying to use the pass as an alternative route. Vehicles more than 35 feet in length aren’t allowed to use the pass.

While a few larger trucks were turned around Saturday, there seems to have been little issue with semis since the gates reopened. The Colorado Department of Transportation has a crew manning the main gates of the pass to look for those sort of vehicles and turn them around.

“We have the CDOT crew up on mile post 47, which is the closure gate, mainly checking for over-length vehicles and there have been very few that have appeared, but some,” Benjamin said. “We haven’t been called up there with any problems.”

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CDOT has flaggers ready to assist vehicles through the narrowest parts of the pass, but is only using them when traffic piles up. Colorado State Patrol also has extra units in the area should problems arise.

Otherwise, it was business as usual for those trying to get over the pass Saturday, which saw only light traffic throughout the heart of the day.

“It’s not necessarily a max exodus, because some people didn’t make it here,” Benjamin said. “If there is extremely little traffic, what are you going to do? But if it’s wall-to-wall, that’s when they’ll do a little more. I’m glad they are trying to gauge what’s needed.”

The metering system on Independence Pass is likely to remain in place as long as I-70 is closed due to the Grizzly Creek Fire.

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