Cottonwood Pass could stay open in I-70 emergencies
At 9:30 Thursday morning, Rifle City Councilman Alan Lambert and his wife, Patty, set out to spend Thanksgiving with Alan’s parents in Conifer Thursday morning when they learned Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon was closed because of a massive rockslide.”I thought about Cottonwood Pass,” Lambert said, as an alternate route around the canyon. Although he knew the road can be rough, especially in the winter, he knew he had chains and his four-wheel-drive truck, and could probably get through.Cottonwood Pass, which tops the high country south of Interstate 70, connects Cattle Creek Road south of Glenwood Springs with Gypsum. Historically, it was the only way into Glenwood Springs from the east until the railroad was built through the canyon and reached Glenwood Springs in October 1887.”The road on the Garfield County side of the pass was in pretty good shape,” Lambert said.But the higher he drove, the worse the road became. Lambert estimated there were five to six inches of packed snow on the dirt road, which was scored with deep ruts. At that point he also began to see cars parked along the side of the road. The driver of one of the parked cars flagged Lambert down. “He told me there were cars stranded on the top.”But he kept going, thinking, he said, that he could help someone out.Farther on and closer to the pass, “a whole line of four-wheel trucks were coming the other way,” he said. One truck stopped to tell him about 200 people were stranded at the top of the pass. “I thought, if (the four-wheel trucks) are not getting through, no one is,” Lambert said.Lambert turned the truck around and headed back down hill. Down at the bottom of Cattle Creek Road where it meets Highway 82, Lambert called his folks to give them the bad news. He’d also picked up Thursday’s Post Independent and saw a story about local restaurants with Thanksgiving specials. He called the Redstone Inn and got a reservation for dinner. Normally, the popular restaurant would have been booked up for the holiday.”They said they had quite a few cancellations because people couldn’t get through, so it probably evened out,” Lambert said.In retrospect, Lambert also wondered if Eagle and Garfield counties, which maintain the Cottonwood Pass road, could plan ahead and make the road an alternative route when the canyon is closed.”Why not do an emergency plan with Eagle (and Garfield) County. Run a grader up there to keep it open, and don’t allow big trucks. Keep it open so local people can get access through there. It’s just a thought,” he said.”Why not do an emergency plan with Eagle (and Garfield) County. Run a grader up there to keep it open, and don’t allow big trucks. Keep it open so local people can get access through there. It’s just a thought,” he said.
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