AURORA, Colo. – Dozens of drivers hoping to find a quicker route around a crash on Pena Boulevard on Sunday found themselves in a muddy mess.
Connie Monsees says she was trying to get to Denver International Airport to pick up her husband at 7 p.m. and got stuck in traffic when her Google Maps application on her phone offered a detour route.
“Google Maps asked us to take the Tower exit, so I did because it was supposed to be half the time,” she said. “It was 47 minutes from Tower Road to the terminal, so I went to the detour, which was supposed to take 23 (minutes).”
Monsees’ husband was already waiting for her at the airport and she trusted her GPS app, so she followed the detour down East 64th Avenue. Eventually, the street turned into a dirt road before intersecting with Jackson Gap Road.
“My thought was, ‘Well there are all these other cars in front of me so it must be OK.’ So I just continued,” she said.
When Monsees was out there, it was sunny. However, the area had received rain earlier in the weekend, turning the dirt road into a slick, muddy mess where cars started sliding around.
“That’s when I thought, ‘Oh this was a bad decision,’” she said.
In total, about 100 cars formed a line on the road and got stuck behind a couple of cars that couldn’t make it through the mud.
Monsees says she couldn’t make a U-turn because she would have ended up in a field since the road is only wide enough for one car at a time.
“The question is why did Google send us out there to begin with? There was no turning back once you were out there,” she said.
Along with the mud, there were two areas in particular where the road had a deep ditch that was difficult for cars to cross.
Monsees’ car, which has all-wheel drive, made it through, and two people who were heading to the airport asked if they could catch a ride with her. She took them along with her to the airport.
“I tore up the inside passenger wheel well for my tire, but it’s not that big of a deal compared to some other people who really tore their cars up and got themselves stuck out there,” she said.
There were some drivers who tried driving around the cars in a field and didn’t see the ditch and hit it hard, sending their cars flying, according to Monsees.
“There are some back ways to get to and from DIA. However, they are not all perfect. Because that was all open land, there still are some dirt roads out there and not all of them are paved yet,” said Denver7 traffic anchor Jayson Luber.
He believes people are becoming too dependent on smart phones and GPS apps instead of maps.
“You are driving. Google Maps is not driving,” Luber said. “Google Maps is not perfect. You need to know where you are going and, if it does not look like that’s where you should be going, turn around and try again.”
Luber, who is a distant relative of Monsees, says even his wife gets stuck in traffic jams sometimes and it’s important to know your area.
“Take a look at the Google map and it’s going to tell you where to go, but you are not a lemming and you don’t need to follow it exactly,” he said. “It’s better to find your own way and take a look at the map.”
Denver7 reached out to the cities of Denver and Aurora and found out that the road is privately owned and maintained. On the side of the road Monday, a road closed sign was lying on its side, however neither city knew whether the road was actually closed to traffic.
Luber says the area is bracing itself for more construction around the Gaylord Hotel and that, eventually, there could be more paved roads. For now, he says the best thing for drivers to do is use their best judgment to determine the right route for themselves.
Denver7 also reached out to Google for a comment but has not yet heard back.