Colorado state lawmakers have cleared the way for a bill to become law, which would boost the deterrent for drivers of large vehicles who illegally attempt to cross Independence Pass.
State law prohibits oversize and overweight vehicles – including vehicles or combination vehicles longer than 35 feet, regardless of size – from using the pass that connects Twin Lakes and Aspen. There are signs on each side of the pass, which is typically open for six months each year from Memorial Day through mid-November, indicating the restriction.
Violators face fines of $500.
Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village, told senators during floor discussion on the bill that action is necessary to get the attention of some truckers who consider the existing fines to be the cost of doing business in order to save time.
“Even though we have 13 signs that say ‘don’t go up on the pass,’ we are finding that we might have to discourage them with an additional fine,” Schwartz said.
The Senate voted 22-12 to send a bill to Gov. John Hickenlooper that would boost the punishment for prohibited trucks and RVs found on state Highway 82 between U.S. 24 and the city of Aspen. Fines would increase from $500 to $1,000. Violations that result in closures would increase the fine to $1,500.
House lawmakers already approved HB1021 on a 41-23 vote.
Sen. Larry Crowder, R-Alamosa, said he is opposed to the stiffer fines.
“It sends a message out to the trucking industry that Colorado is not in the market to do business with them,” Crowder said. “If anything, on this particular bill we should be trying to lower the fines because of how valuable the trucking industry is to the state.”
Owner-operator and OOIDA Life Member Jack McComb of Littleton, Colo., said that people like Crowder are missing the point: safety.
“Oversized vehicles on the pass are in extreme danger of not only damaging their equipment, but the possibility of a fatal accident is very high,” McComb said. “The point of trying to deter trucks from using the pass is not revenue, but saving lives and property.”
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