Making Cottonwood Go far more passable: Unofficial I-70 detour eyed for advancements | Western Colorado

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

But the Cottonwood Move Road southeast of Glenwood Springs is proving common and practical nonetheless for some motorists making an attempt to get concerning that metropolis and points east for the duration of significantly prevalent I-70 closures, and Eagle and Garfield counties are searching at means to make improvements to its functionality.

Officials in the two counties have renewed conversations about feasible upgrades to the street to improve its viability for use by motorists when I-70 as a result of the canyon shuts down.

The newest talks pertaining to the Cottonwood Move Road have been prompted by previous year’s Grizzly Creek Fireplace, which closed the freeway by the canyon at the time of the fireplace for two months, and by many closures in the canyon this calendar year owing to particles flows ensuing from rainstorms on hearth-scarred slopes. A single such closure began Thursday evening and was expected to past at least via the weekend.

Earlier discussions about probable improvements to the Cottonwood Go Highway date again previously than past calendar year, prompted by rockfall incidents that have earlier closed I-70 in the canyon.

CDOT strongly discourages use of Cottonwood Pass and other county and Forest Support roads in the Glenwood Canyon spot as detour routes when I-70 closes, in portion simply because they aren’t designed for weighty traffic or business, oversize automobiles. In the circumstance of basic safety closures in Glenwood Canyon that are predicted to past extra than an hour, CDOT endorses a northern alternate route working with Colorado Freeway 9, U.S. Freeway 40 and Colorado Freeway 13. That detour adds about 2.5 hrs of travel time as opposed to driving via the canyon, CDOT suggests.

While CDOT very last 12 months recommended a southern detour route partly incorporating U.S. Highway 50, that road is at this time subject matter to intensive closures amongst Montrose and Gunnison for a big road reconstruction project. When CDOT generally has not been recommending its use as an alternate route this year, it has organized for maintaining it open up through the design zone by means of the length of the Glenwood Canyon closure that started Thursday.


Specified the use of Cottonwood Go Road that is happening throughout I-70 closures even with CDOT advising in opposition to it, Eagle County Manager Jeff Shroll explained the county has protocols in put to tackle detour targeted visitors on the go for the duration of closures. These partly require finding regulation enforcement and street-and-bridge personnel set up to maintain trucks off the road, as it is not crafted for this sort of traffic and tractor-trailer usage,, can and has forced the street to shut down.

For the duration of I-70 closures, officials also escort cars in one particular direction and then the other on a steep, slender stretch of the Cottonwood Move Highway in Eagle County. Shroll stated there are a several spots way too slim for autos heading in opposite instructions to go, this means somebody has to again down throughout regular use of the street.

Shroll reported the Cottonwood Go steps Eagle County has taken throughout I-70 shutdowns, doing the job in cooperation with Garfield County, have assisted out in the brief term, addressing in distinct the want for locals to go concerning the two counties, these kinds of as medical professionals, lecturers, law enforcement and other personnel who commute concerning the two counties for function.

Shroll said it’s been an eye-opener with the canyon shutdowns to see how connected both of those sides of Glenwood Canyon are. With a lot of wellbeing treatment providers commuting via the canyon in one way or the other, conducting scheduled surgeries and having people and medical doctors again and forth gets to be challenging when journey amongst the two counties is obstructed, he mentioned.

Non-locals from areas such as Mesa County also can dismiss CDOT’s request and opt for to test Cottonwood Go in the course of I-70 shutdowns, though Shroll encouraged it is likely to be slow-heading, specially in the situation of prolonged closures.

Motorists also ought to be informed that Cottonwood Pass is not immune to its personal weather conditions-connected closures, such as a shutdown that transpired on Thursday, even as I-70 in the canyon was shut.


Shroll mentioned basic safety is the worry for Eagle County officers when it arrives to the use of the Cottonwood Go route by detour targeted traffic.

“It’s a perilous road as it is,” he said.

Eagle County is performing targeted visitors counts on the Cottonwood Go Street to examine standard every day traffic to utilization when I-70 is closed, and also utilization when CDOT does a lot more aggressive messaging at Rifle and in Eagle County at Wolcott to get motorists off I-70 at those exits all through closures. Shroll reported people counts are not however out there, but Cottonwood Move utilization as a detour route noticeably drops when CDOT is effective to divert traffic at Rifle and Wolcott.

Shroll stated discussions involving Eagle and Garfield counties are focusing on what minimal improvements could be built to make it safer and less difficult to generate in the summer months when I-70 closures come about, and what people advancements would charge.

“That undoubtedly is rising to the major of our to-do list as we are starting off to see more canyon closures,” he stated.

He explained easy enhancements, some of which previously in progress, involve things this kind of as filling potholes, knocking back again trees and brush and scaling back dirt from hillsides to enhance sight distances at corners, and clearing ditches of particles these kinds of as boulders to hold them draining properly and help cars to pull over into the ditches in a pinch.

When it arrives to upgrading the Cottonwood Pass route, much of it would require the Eagle County segment. Garfield County Commissioner Tom Jankovsky mentioned that on the Garfield County aspect, the highway is chipped-and-sealed to perhaps two to a few miles from Eagle County line, and is in pretty fantastic shape to the county line.

“The improvements would have to come on the Eagle County side. They would have to be the champions of that,” he claimed.

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

12 months-Spherical USE ‘A Weighty LIFT’

The price tag of improvements could swiftly increase up. Shroll said that he does not know that Eagle County is in a place to maintain the highway plowed and open up yr-round, calling that “a fairly weighty lift.” He claimed it is a higher-altitude road than any that the county now maintains 12 months-round, can get weighty snow drifts, and the expense of whole-time winter upkeep would not be insignificant. Cottonwood Go is at about 8,300 feet in elevation.

Shroll mentioned the preliminary emphasis is on what improvements could be designed to the street as a summer months route, and right after that is established, officers can talk to if individuals enhancements would be sufficient to make wintertime vacation harmless. He stated a steep stretch of roadway on the Eagle County facet that in all probability exceeds a 9% quality in destinations most likely would involve perform to reduced the quality before wintertime travel would be feasible.

In conditions of paving the highway, “those conversations haven’t taken spot still,” Shroll mentioned.

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

“That’s not in the playing cards suitable now,” he mentioned.

He mentioned Eagle County lacks the suitable of way to make Cottonwood Pass a comprehensive-time, practical substitute to I-70.

Jankovsky reported it would possibly have to have $40 million to $50 million to make the road an alternative route to I-70 for passenger automobiles and modest trucks.

“We would be joyful to group up with Eagle County on that, but like anything it’s (a dilemma of) the funding source,” he explained.

CDOT’S Check out

Cottonwood Move at the time was viewed as as a chance for the I-70 route prior to officers made the decision to route the freeway as a result of Glenwood Canyon. In 2016, immediately after a February rockfall closed I-70 in the canyon for times, CDOT’s then-director, Shailen Bhatt, mentioned making a 12 months-spherical detour route on Cottonwood Move was between probable lengthy-expression strategies for working with rockfall-related closures in the canyon, but pointed to price tag as a issue. CDOT and officers with some local governments satisfied the very same year to hold a preliminary dialogue about the thought of making Cottonwood Move an alternate route during closures, but the concept seems to have stalled because then.

Asked if this year’s particles flows have prompted CDOT to consider constructing an alternate route to I-70, company spokeswoman Elise Thatcher reported it’s not contemplating carrying out that.

“Cottonwood Move and all other routes by nearby canyons or mountain terrain are county roadways or U.S. Forest Provider streets. CDOT does not have jurisdiction above these roads,” she said.

She explained Cottonwood and other routes also would be inclined to wildfires and write-up-wildfire activities like particles flows, and she cited the “extremely large cost” to establish and maintain any these route.

In reaction to the fireplace, CDOT very last fall took measures to raise rockfall protection in Glenwood Canyon “to protect the roadway from existing rockfall dangers and attainable more rockfall brought about by rain on the Grizzly Creek melt away scar,” Thatcher explained.

Adhering to particles flows, CDOT also has been immediately clearing box culverts to manage safety in the course of mudslides, she claimed.

CDOT officers believe a berm positioned in the Hanging Lake Tunnel region of the canyon just after the fireplace has safeguarded that space from flooding and debris impacts multiple instances. In a press meeting Friday, CDOT Government Director Shoshana Lew said added mitigation fencing has been put in the canyon. She also famous that a number of organizations have been included in revegetation efforts in the canyon, but additional that this sort of new vegetation isn’t as protecting as the trees the hearth burned. But she also said that over time, she thinks the ecology in a fireplace spot stabilizes.

CDOT also has been working on tasks to far better allow selected alternate routes to stand up to the improved site visitors when I-70 is closed. These provided advancements to Colorado Highway 13 north of Rifle very last yr, chip-sealing last 12 months on Highway 50, and the present job there.

Lew said CDOT has been doing work with federal officers who manage the interstate highway procedure concerning the Glenwood Canyon difficulty. She claimed it’s a little bit shortly to know what the extended-term results of what’s been taking place in excess of modern months in the canyon will be.

“But that reported, there are some extremely significant normal forces listed here in perform that just create some elementary troubles, some of which can be accelerated and some of which nature heals over time,” she reported.


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

“This is just one of these sensible issues. In my feeling it is a necessity. This is not a want. … This is a scenario that impacts the economies of the area when the canyon is shut,” he claimed.

He thinks the Cottonwood Move Street is of condition significance, and the bulk of funding to make improvements to it really should come from the point out, with contributions also potentially coming from community governments.

“If we as a region have unanimous assist, declaring this needs to materialize, then CDOT will determine out a way to make that come about,” Gamba said.

Gamba is sympathetic to folks dwelling on the Cottonwood Go route when it comes to the impacts they would see from an enhanced route with far more website traffic.

But he additional, “In this circumstance, I’m additional sympathetic to the greater group that has important impacts to their livelihoods and their life for the reason that of the closure of Glenwood Canyon.”

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