EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. - Visitors who enjoy driving to and from the summit of Pikes Peak won't get to enjoy that privilege for the next few summers.
Jack Glavan, manager of the Pikes Peak Highway, announced Tuesday that most vehicular traffic will be kept off the summit between the Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends.
Glavan said the decision is in response to concerns about increased traffic congestion produced by the closing of the Cog Railway, construction of a new Summit House and road construction projects in the area.
"We had a record year for attendance last year and we're already 25,000 above that pace," he said. "We're also hearing from many people planning trips to Pikes Peak and asking what the conditions will be. Summer is our peak season. Our goal is to get people on and off the mountain quickly and safely."
Glavan said $2 million from the highway's budget has been allocated to buy and fuel 33 shuttle buses for the summer, and the expense should be covered by the anticipated attendance increase.
"Riding the shuttles is free but people still have to pay the highway toll," he said. "We'll run shuttles every five to ten minutes from the 7-mile parking lot and the Devil's Playground (16-mile parking lot). On peak days we'll also use Glen Cove as an overflow parking lot."
Glavan says trips to the summit will take around 30 minutes, with no stops along the way.
Ten private companies also are providing shuttle service this summer, for a fee that includes the highway toll, and including stops along the way.
Additional staff has been hired to help keep traffic flowing through the entry gate, Glavan said, and he advises visitors to buy tickets in advance to reduce congestion and wait times at the gate.
The traffic change begins May 31 and ends Sept. 15.
Exempt from the change are disabled people, adults with children in car seats and small groups of motorcycles. No pets or bicycles are allowed on the free shuttles.
Glavan said the change will remain effective until the fall of 2020 when the new Summit House is scheduled to open.
Some visitors said they'll miss the convenience and flexibility of driving to and from the summit on their own.
"I don't like that idea," said Sean Dedrickson, of Manitou Springs. "It's nice when your relatives and friends come to town, to take them up. But I understand the traffic concerns."
"Do I think it's going to discourage a lot of people from coming? I do, and that's a sad thing," said Cheryn Ryan, from Texas. "Progress is progress, but this sounds like it might not be great."
Other visitors said shuttles are a safer and more relaxing way of traveling up and down the mountain.
"We were freaking out the whole way up," said Abrielle McLemore, from Missouri. "So it would be nice to have someone else drive up there, and also with all the traffic, it kind of makes you a little more nervous that something might happen."
For more information, visit: http://pikespeakcolorado.com.