Building Cottonwood Pass far more satisfactory: Unofficial I-70 detour eyed for advancements | Western Colorado

Gisela Steep

It is not paved, it is not open calendar year-spherical, it’s no area to travel a semi, and its use is discouraged by the Colorado Section of Transportation as a detour route when Interstate 70 by way of Glenwood Canyon is shut. But the Cottonwood Move Highway southeast of Glenwood […]

It is not paved, it is not open calendar year-spherical, it’s no area to travel a semi, and its use is discouraged by the Colorado Section of Transportation as a detour route when Interstate 70 by way of Glenwood Canyon is shut.

But the Cottonwood Move Highway southeast of Glenwood Springs is proving common and valuable nevertheless for some motorists making an attempt to get involving that city and details east throughout significantly frequent I-70 closures, and Eagle and Garfield counties are seeking at methods to make improvements to its functionality.

Officers in the two counties have renewed discussions about attainable upgrades to the street to strengthen its viability for use by motorists when I-70 via the canyon shuts down.

The most current talks pertaining to the Cottonwood Move Highway have been prompted by last year’s Grizzly Creek Hearth, which shut the freeway via the canyon at the time of the fireplace for two weeks, and by various closures in the canyon this 12 months thanks to particles flows resulting from rainstorms on hearth-scarred slopes. Just one these types of closure commenced Thursday night and was anticipated to final at the very least by way of the weekend.

Past conversations about possible enhancements to the Cottonwood Move Street date again before than very last yr, prompted by rockfall incidents that have earlier shut I-70 in the canyon.

CDOT strongly discourages use of Cottonwood Go and other county and Forest Provider streets in the Glenwood Canyon region as detour routes when I-70 closes, in section due to the fact they are not crafted for significant site visitors or professional, oversize vehicles. In the circumstance of basic safety closures in Glenwood Canyon that are envisioned to last additional than an hour, CDOT recommends a northern alternate route using Colorado Freeway 9, U.S. Highway 40 and Colorado Highway 13. That detour provides about 2.5 hours of journey time as opposed to driving through the canyon, CDOT suggests.

Whilst CDOT final calendar year advisable a southern detour route partly incorporating U.S. Highway 50, that street is at this time subject matter to extensive closures amongst Montrose and Gunnison for a significant street reconstruction venture. Although CDOT generally hasn’t been recommending its use as an alternate route this year, it has arranged for preserving it open up via the building zone by the period of the Glenwood Canyon closure that begun Thursday.


Offered the use of Cottonwood Pass Road that is developing during I-70 closures even with CDOT advising in opposition to it, Eagle County Manager Jeff Shroll reported the county has protocols in spot to address detour visitors on the pass in the course of closures. These partly involve getting law enforcement and road-and-bridge personnel established up to continue to keep trucks off the street, as it’s not constructed for such traffic and tractor-trailer use,, can and has forced the street to shut down.

For the duration of I-70 closures, officers also escort motor vehicles in a single route and then the other on a steep, slim extend of the Cottonwood Go Highway in Eagle County. Shroll claimed there are a couple places way too narrow for cars going in reverse instructions to move, that means a person has to back again down all through regular use of the highway.

Shroll mentioned the Cottonwood Go steps Eagle County has taken during I-70 shutdowns, doing work in cooperation with Garfield County, have helped out in the short phrase, addressing in specific the need for locals to move between the two counties, this kind of as medical professionals, academics, law enforcement and other staff who commute concerning the two counties for perform.

Shroll stated it’s been an eye-opener with the canyon shutdowns to see how linked both of those sides of Glenwood Canyon are. With several well being treatment providers commuting by means of the canyon in just one way or the other, conducting scheduled surgeries and having people and health professionals back again and forth becomes complicated when journey between the two counties is obstructed, he stated.

Non-locals from areas which includes Mesa County also can overlook CDOT’s request and decide on to check out Cottonwood Pass throughout I-70 shutdowns, though Shroll encouraged it’s probable to be sluggish-going, in particular in the circumstance of prolonged closures.

Motorists also ought to be aware that Cottonwood Go is not immune to its individual temperature-similar closures, these types of as a shutdown that occurred on Thursday, even as I-70 in the canyon was closed.


Shroll explained basic safety is the issue for Eagle County officials when it arrives to the use of the Cottonwood Pass route by detour site visitors.

“It’s a dangerous road as it is,” he stated.

Eagle County is doing targeted traffic counts on the Cottonwood Move Street to evaluate regular day by day visitors to usage when I-70 is closed, and also use when CDOT does much more intense messaging at Rifle and in Eagle County at Wolcott to get motorists off I-70 at those people exits in the course of closures. Shroll explained people counts are not but accessible, but Cottonwood Move usage as a detour route drastically drops when CDOT will work to divert site visitors at Rifle and Wolcott.

Shroll explained discussions concerning Eagle and Garfield counties are concentrating on what negligible improvements could be designed to make it safer and less difficult to travel in the summer season when I-70 closures arise, and what those people improvements would expense.

“That unquestionably is soaring to the leading of our to-do listing as we are setting up to see additional canyon closures,” he reported.

He stated uncomplicated enhancements, some of which now in development, include issues these as filling potholes, knocking back again trees and brush and scaling back filth from hillsides to improve sight distances at corners, and clearing ditches of debris this sort of as boulders to continue to keep them draining appropriately and enable cars to pull around into the ditches in a pinch.

When it will come to upgrading the Cottonwood Pass route, much of it would require the Eagle County area. Garfield County Commissioner Tom Jankovsky claimed that on the Garfield County facet, the street is chipped-and-sealed to perhaps two to three miles from Eagle County line, and is in quite great shape to the county line.

“The advancements would have to arrive on the Eagle County aspect. They would have to be the champions of that,” he claimed.

Shroll reported of Eagle County, “We have all the really hard sections.”

12 months-Spherical USE ‘A Significant LIFT’

The value of improvements could immediately increase up. Shroll stated that he doesn’t know that Eagle County is in a place to preserve the road plowed and open up 12 months-round, calling that “a quite significant carry.” He claimed it’s a greater-altitude highway than any that the county now maintains 12 months-spherical, can get major snow drifts, and the charge of total-time wintertime servicing wouldn’t be insignificant. Cottonwood Move is at about 8,300 toes in elevation.

Shroll reported the initial aim is on what advancements could be manufactured to the road as a summer months route, and soon after that is established, officials can talk to if individuals enhancements would be more than enough to make winter season travel safe and sound. He explained a steep stretch of roadway on the Eagle County facet that possibly exceeds a 9% quality in sites very likely would require operate to lessen the grade in advance of winter season travel would be possible.

In terms of paving the street, “those discussions haven’t taken put but,” Shroll stated.

Shroll stated he thinks it would choose more than $30 million to make the highway a paved, two-lane route.

“That’s not in the playing cards proper now,” he claimed.

He explained Eagle County lacks the appropriate of way to make Cottonwood Move a full-time, feasible substitute to I-70.

Jankovsky claimed it would most likely require $40 million to $50 million to make the road an substitute route to I-70 for passenger automobiles and compact vans.

“We would be satisfied to team up with Eagle County on that, but like almost everything it’s (a concern of) the funding source,” he said.

CDOT’S Check out

Cottonwood Move after was deemed as a possibility for the I-70 route right before officials made the decision to route the highway by way of Glenwood Canyon. In 2016, soon after a February rockfall closed I-70 in the canyon for times, CDOT’s then-director, Shailen Bhatt, explained developing a yr-round detour route on Cottonwood Go was amongst feasible long-expression techniques for dealing with rockfall-associated closures in the canyon, but pointed to price tag as a worry. CDOT and officers with some nearby governments satisfied the exact yr to hold a preliminary dialogue about the plan of generating Cottonwood Move an alternate route in the course of closures, but the strategy appears to have stalled given that then.

Questioned if this year’s particles flows have prompted CDOT to take into consideration making an alternate route to I-70, agency spokeswoman Elise Thatcher reported it is not contemplating executing that.

“Cottonwood Pass and all other routes through nearby canyons or mountain terrain are county roads or U.S. Forest Services streets. CDOT does not have jurisdiction around these streets,” she claimed.

She claimed Cottonwood and other routes also would be susceptible to wildfires and article-wildfire situations like debris flows, and she cited the “extremely large cost” to build and maintain any these kinds of route.

In reaction to the fire, CDOT very last tumble took actions to boost rockfall protection in Glenwood Canyon “to defend the roadway from present rockfall dangers and possible extra rockfall caused by rain on the Grizzly Creek melt away scar,” Thatcher stated.

Pursuing particles flows, CDOT also has been promptly clearing box culverts to retain security during mudslides, she explained.

CDOT officers consider a berm put in the Hanging Lake Tunnel space of the canyon just after the fire has secured that location from flooding and particles impacts various instances. In a push meeting Friday, CDOT Govt Director Shoshana Lew claimed extra mitigation fencing has been put in the canyon. She also pointed out that many businesses have been concerned in revegetation attempts in the canyon, but additional that such new vegetation is not as protective as the trees the fire burned. But she also claimed that above time, she thinks the ecology in a fire spot stabilizes.

CDOT also has been operating on projects to much better permit selected alternate routes to stand up to the amplified targeted visitors when I-70 is closed. These included advancements to Colorado Freeway 13 north of Rifle past yr, chip-sealing final calendar year on Freeway 50, and the recent project there.

Lew stated CDOT has been performing with federal officers who take care of the interstate highway process with regards to the Glenwood Canyon problem. She claimed it’s a bit before long to know what the long-time period effects of what is been happening above new weeks in the canyon will be.

“But that stated, there are some very large purely natural forces listed here in participate in that just make some essential issues, some of which can be accelerated and some of which character heals above time,” she said.

Move Project ‘A NECESSITY’

Mike Gamba, a civil engineer in Glenwood Springs who attended the 2016 Cottonwood Move discussion as Glenwood’s mayor at the time, is an ardent advocate of generating that street a year-spherical alternate to I-70.

“This is one of these practical matters. In my view it is a requirement. This isn’t a want. … This is a circumstance that has an effect on the economies of the area when the canyon is closed,” he explained.

He thinks the Cottonwood Move Highway is of point out relevance, and the bulk of funding to make improvements to it should arrive from the point out, with contributions also probably coming from area governments.

“If we as a region have unanimous guidance, expressing this wants to materialize, then CDOT will figure out a way to make that transpire,” Gamba explained.

Gamba is sympathetic to people today living on the Cottonwood Go route when it will come to the impacts they would see from an enhanced route with much more website traffic.

But he additional, “In this case, I’m extra sympathetic to the larger sized community that has substantial impacts to their livelihoods and their lives simply because of the closure of Glenwood Canyon.”

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