The Colorado Department of Transportation has ordered some new, creative signs in an attempt to discourage oversized vehicles from driving Independence Pass.
The signs are reminiscent of the large, yellow warnings on eastbound Interstate 70 where traffic descends steeply from Lookout Mountain into Denver. Those signs, using an urgent but conversational tone, say things like “Truckers, Don’t Be Fooled. Four more miles of steep grades and sharp curves,” and “Truckers, Are Your Brakes Adjusted and Cool?”
“Those signs (near Denver) have been extremely effective,” said Zane Znamenacek, regional traffic engineer for CDOT. “When you do something creative like that, you don’t necessarily want to copy it everywhere. But we think this is kind of a unique situation (on Independence Pass).”
The Independence Pass signs, which have been ordered and should be installed this season, will say the following:
VEHICLES OVER 35 FEET WILL
Get Stuck at Switchbacks
Probably Be Damaged
IF THEY PROCEED
Every year, oversized commercial trucks and recreational vehicles try to negotiate Independence Pass and get stuck at tight switchbacks or narrow sections. Some of them end up damaged, and they also can damage other vehicles in their path.
Signs on both sides of Independence Pass, which climbs to more than 12,000 feet at the Continental Divide, already make it clear that vehicles longer than 35 feet in length are prohibited. Znamenacek said seven such signs already are posted between Glenwood Springs and the winter closure gate east of Aspen, along with several on the eastern side of the pass.
Despite the warnings, local and state law enforcement agencies have issued between 25 and 29 citations thus far in 2013. A normal season would see 30 or so citations, Znamenacek said, so this summer is already running high.
In a conversation last week with the Pitkin County commissioners, CDOT officials said various mapping and global positioning systems may lead drivers over the pass and contribute to the problem. Also, they said, the current $200 fines probably aren’t sufficiently steep to keep truckers (and their dispatchers, who are located far away and aren’t familiar with the terrain) from giving it a try.
“With the amount of signage we have out there, it’s inexcusable for (commercial) drivers to say they didn’t know,” said Dave Eller, CDOT’s regional transportation director.
County commissioners plan to raise the issue when they meet later this month with state Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village. In addition to potential legislative remedies, Znamenacek said CDOT also is exploring the potential for “automated enforcement,” meaning an electronic device that could measure a vehicle’s length and a camera that could record license plates.
“That may be the real solution,” Znamenacek said.