2014 US Trucking News – Independence Pass Bill Penalizes US Truck Drivers
A bill that is set to increase the penalties for those truck drivers who have unlawfully used the Independence Pass is a step closer to becoming law.
Today, the Colorado Senate voted 12-22 to increase the fines on trucking in Independence Pass, from $500 to $2,000. House Bill D would increase the fine for the illegal use of the Independence Pass on Highway 32, which is right between Aspen and Twin Lakes.
The week before, the Colorado Senate Transportation Committee collectively passed the bill. It has already been approved by the House.
For years, local officials have also made an effort to keep trucks off the pass, but they have also mentioned that a lot of drivers have not paid attention to this 35-foot constraint.
Those who advocate the bill say that the current fine of $111 is not enough to discourage truckers.
The Aspen Daily News has also reported that truckers have told deputies that they disregard this 35-foot restriction as well as the average fine of $111 because using the pass helps them to save time and gas instead of just driving around it. But doing so and getting stuck could slow down the emergency responses, hence the bigger fine in regards to blocking, and put other motorists, cyclists, and the clean valley in danger. Officials have also said that this practice can also cause road damage and lead to traffic jams.
The Colorado Motor Carriers Association has also made an appearance in support of the bill, and a lot of people believe that the bill has a huge possibility of being passed.
This bill has now moved to Governor John Hickenlooper’s desk for the final approval.
The Independence Pass, also known as the Hunter’s Pass, is a large mountain pass found in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. The pass has an elevation of 12,095 feet on the Continental Divide in the Sawatch Range. The pass is also found midway between Aspen and Twin lakes, on the border right in the middle of Pitkin and Lake counties.
State Highway 82 transverses this pass. And in the process, it reaches the highest elevation of a cemented Colorado state highway on a through road. The pass is also the second highest pass with a better road in the state, after Cottonwood Pass to the South. All in all, the Independence Pass is the fourth highest paved road in the state, and the highest paved crossing of the Continental Divide in the US. Due to the heavy snowfall at its elevation, the pass is closed during wintertime, isolating Aspen from direct access from the east when ski season arrives.
When the pass gets opened during warmer weather, it turns into a popular destination. It has a scenic overlook near the pass which lets visitors to take in the alpine tundra environment on top of the treeline, and gives wonderful views to the east of Mount Elbert, which is known as the highest peak in Colorado, and the second highest mountain in the contiguous United States. Rock climbers are attracted to the nearby opportunities for bouldering, and informal paths also lead to close mountain summits that have an even higher elevation. Backcountry skiers also make use of these slopes during the arrival of early spring, and late summer. Since 2011, the pass has become a part of the route of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge.
A lot of visitors stop at the parking lot and take a walk at the cemented path to its attractive overlook. When the weather is clear enough, it offers views east of Mount Elbert, which is the highest peak in Colorado, and La Plata Peak, the state’s fifth highest at 14,336 feet. To the west, more fourteeners – The Maroon Bells, Snowmass Mountains, and Capitol Peak, stand out amongst the other mountains. A trail that has plaque interpretations written in Braille is also available for visitors who are visually impaired.
Other types of outdoor recreation opportunities also exist near the pass. Between the pass and Difficult Campground, 3 miles east of Aspen, there are also a lot of famous rock climbing areas, some containing grades of up to 5.12 under the Yosemite Decimal System. The Grotto Wall found across from Lincoln Gulch campground is also a popular destination. Found closer to the pass are the Instant Karma Cliff and Putterman’s Dome. A pair of rocks along either side of Highway 82 on the east approach to the pass are famous spots for bouldering.
After spring, when the pass reopens, backcountry riders have often taken the opportunity of the lingering snow found on the slopes. In the years after strong winters, skiing is possible until July.
The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) prohibits the use of Highway 82 through the pass. The most significant one is the winter closure. The road is always shut down after the first winter snowfall, or by November at the latest. CDOT also tries to reopen just before the start of the Memorial Day weekend in late May, which is the customary beginning of summer in the United States, when enough of the built up snow has melted to make it possible to clear and fix up the road. Some years, after light winters, the Independence Pass has been reopened as early as mid-May. Two gates, found just the east of Aspen on the west end and west of the buildings of the stage stop of Mount Everett on the east avert motor vehicles from the passage. Once the road has been closed, Aspen is cut off from the east and Highway 82 up the valley from Glenwood Springs, since it becomes the remaining vehicular access to the city while the ski season is ongoing.
Even if the pass is open, it is not passable by all vehicles. Vehicles which are oversized and overweight are banned from passing the area, as well as vehicles or vehicle combinations which measure longer than 35 feet, regardless of its weight or size.