The road closures throughout the Western Slope have impacted more than just recreational travel plans — they have also delayed the Colorado Department of Transportation’s efforts to update equipment managing the intersection at Highway 82 and the Aspen Pitkin County Airport after the traffic light was a casualty of a collision early Wednesday morning.
By 7:43 a.m. that day, Pitkin County alerts had sent a series of messages informing recipients that due to an incident at the airport traffic light, eastbound traffic on Highway 82 would be diverted, suggesting drivers use alternate routes into Aspen. Even the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority was impacted, a Pitkin County sheriff’s official said.
A truck dumping snow failed to lower the haul bed after departing the area. The raised haul bed struck the traffic light assembly, and a temporary fixture was installed. Because the traffic light is under the Colorado Department of Transportation's jurisdiction, CDOT is managing the project.
“We have a portable signal in place now and will have to keep these temporary measures in place until the permanent repair can be done,” CDOT communications manager Elise Thatcher said in an email. “We are planning to add a pole to improve the temporary left turn signal for motorists turning left at that location. This left turn temporary pole should be up next week, weather dependent. It’s another temporary element. We are adding more equipment so that drivers turning left can more clearly see when it’s their turn to turn.”
If it hadn’t been for the recent winter storm, that left-turn notice would have likely been installed Thursday. As for when the permanent fixture can be completed, that will depend on CDOT’s findings regarding the current pole’s viability since the collision.
“It will probably take several months for a replacement pole to be available,” Thatcher said. “The timeline depends on whether CDOT can use the previous pole or if [we] need to order a new pole. We're working to determine if we can reuse the previous pole, or if it has been damaged to the point where it is no longer structurally sound.”
Obviously, if the existing pole cannot safely be used to support a future permanent light fixture, it will complicate the project which in turn will require more time — maybe up to a year, she continued.
“If we have to order a new pole, it will be a much longer wait, as the manufacturer is reporting a wait of 10 to 12 months for new pole orders. We have a portable signal in place now and will have to keep these temporary measures in place until the permanent repair can be done,” she said.
As it stands now, the temporary fix seems to be working.
“We haven’t gotten any complaints,” Pitkin County Sheriff’s investigator Bruce Benjamin said of the intersection.