Commuters prepare for pain at the pass
Hoosier Pass closure Hoosier Pass will be closed from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. Sunday through Thursday beginning this Sunday, and continuing for up to three weeks. During daylight hours, expect 20 minute delays as the pass will be restricted to one lane of traffic.The road will be open Friday and Saturday. During closures, waiting cars will be allowed over the pass at 11 p.m. and 2 a.m.Construction crews will be installing new culverts, as well as rumble strips and doing some paving work on the roadway. HOOSIER PASS – A major road construction project that could close Hoosier Pass south of Breckenridge for up to 15 nights has commuters from Park County worried about how they will get to and from work in Summit County.”It’s going to be nightmare,” said Jamie Heffeoman, a Hartsel resident and day foreman at City Market in Breckenridge.The Colorado Department of Transportation will begin a $2.5 million project on Sunday to replace about 20 aging culverts that run underneath the roadway, install rumble strips and repave sections of the highway, according to CDOT spokesperson Bob Wilson.In order to place the new culverts, the construction crew will have to cut the road entirely open, Wilson said. That means both lanes of the pass will be closed from the pass’ summit and three miles north toward Blue River from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. Sunday through Thursday for up to three weeks, he said.Traffic queued up at the pass will be allowed through twice a night – at 11 p.m. and at 2 a.m.
Even so, the news is causing big headaches for the scores of people who work in Summit County, but call Park County home, and don’t work conventional 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. hours.Heffeoman typically clocks in at 5 a.m. at City Market. In order to avoid being late, she’ll have to hit the 2 a.m. window, and arrive at work about two hours early. She estimated about 26 to 30 employees at the store will be affected by the road closure between the bakery, deli and receiving departments, which all require early-morning hours.Summit Stage director John Jones said that about 20 percent of his workforce commutes from Park County, including five bus drivers.”We may end up juggling some schedules, we may end up a couple nights having to put some people up because they can’t get home. … I’m not exactly sure how we’re going to deal with it at this time,” Jones said.Colorado Mountain College English teacher Mali Faust says she’ll have to cut her twice-weekly classes short in order to be at the base of Hoosier Pass by 9 p.m. to get home.”Not only am I affected, but now my students are affected; it’s a huge, huge, huge snowball,” Faust said.CDOT’s Wilson understands people’s concerns, but said the department tried to forewarn them about the inconveniences. CDOT held three open houses last November – one in Fairplay, one in Alma and another in Breckenridge- to discuss concerns, and the message at that time was that Park County residents would be willing to rearrange their schedules for construction. “We were told that and now folks are saying we need to get through, and we’re saying, ‘Look we already set this up in such a way after hearing from people who said they will work their schedule around our schedule,'” Wilson said.Wilson said that emergency services vehicles, such as ambulances, will be allowed to pass through the construction zone, so long as vehicles radio ahead to provide crews time to create a makeshift road.Summit County deputy coroner and Dillon Police Sgt. Wendy Kipple is hoping she’ll be permitted over the pass in her personal vehicle if she gets paged to respond to a death scene somewhere in Summit.
“If I get called out on a coroner call I don’t know what I’m going to do because you can’t schedule when people are going to die,” she said from her cell phone while waiting in traffic at Hoosier Pass Tuesday morning.Breckenridge Police Detective Amy Nordeen is in the same boat.She’s among the 75 percent of the Breckenridge Police Department personnel who live in Park County, and although she works standard hours, she’s always on-call because of her position. If Nordeen gets called out when the pass is closed, she said she’ll likely drive through Como and up Boreas Pass Road into Breckenridge on the narrow, unmaintained, dirt road.Although that’s probably the quickest alternative route, Wilson recommended only locals or people familiar with Boreas Pass Road take advantage of that option.Others should take I-70 to Highway 91 through Leadville, to Buena Vista and back to U.S. 285, which is lengthier, but keeps drivers on paved highways, Wilson said.Summit County Sheriff John Minor said he thinks the number of people affected by the Hoosier Pass closure highlights a larger, underlying issue in Summit County: The people who handle the jobs that keep Summit County running cannot afford to live in the community where they work.That, in turn, causes retention problems because people tend to get more embedded into the community where they live and therefore stay at their jobs longer.Minor said 50 percent of his jail staff and 25 percent of his patrol staff live in Summit’s neighboring county to the south.According to the 2000 U.S. Census Bureau, 880 people commuted from Park County to Summit County for a job, filtering the highest number of workers into Summit than any other county in the state. Lake County was a close second with 868 commuters.While most of the folks interviewed for this story said they could find a place to stay in Summit County if need-be because of the construction, responsibilities such families and animals to feed required they be home at night.
Nicole Formosa can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 13625, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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