With bad weather in the forecast for the next few days, the Colorado Department of Transportation has closed Independence Pass for the remainder of the season.
Authorities had contemplated keeping Highway 82, which traverses the pass, open throughout the day on Thursday, but with six inches of snow already covering the ground and more snow in the forecast, they decided to close the gates as an extra precaution.
Independence Pass is closed at some point in the fall each year and remains closed for the entirety of the winter season. This year’s closing was actually much later than it has been in the past. The pass closed on November 4 last year, November 9 in 2012, November 2 in 2011 and October 26 in 2010, according to Aspen Daily News Online.
Icy, snowy roads have made driving conditions difficult for Aspen residents so far this season, and a number of accidents have already been reported.
By rush hour on Wednesday, there had already been 11 accidents in the city. Across the county, 13 accidents were reported by early evening, including a four-car pileup. Due to the poor road conditions and high number of weather-related car accidents, authorities temporarily closed down a number of roads, including Owl Creek Road between Highway 82 and Highline Road, and Jaffee Hill where McLain Flats Road crosses Smith Hill Way.
Authorities from the Aspen Police Department blamed many of the accidents on poor car maintenance. Recent studies have shown that over 75% of cars on the road are in need of repairs or maintenance, and old, worn-out tires were responsible for several of the accidents seen on Wednesday.
“We urge everyone to winterize their vehicles. Snow tires and/or studded tires are highly recommended,” said Aspen Police Department community relations specialist Blair Weyer, according to Aspen Daily News Online.
On top of bad road conditions, many traffic lights in the city were also hard for drivers to see. Thick layers of ice and snow covered a number of traffic lights along Highway 82 earlier in the week. Even a Colorado Department of Transportation worker sent to try and de-ice some of the lights broke his scraper in the process.
According to Aspen police, the proper procedure when traffic lights are either covered or not working is to treat the intersection as a four-way stop, though they say they rarely see drivers follow this rule.