Cottonwood Pass upgrade would be a costly venture | PostIndependent.com

Cottonwood Pass upgrade would be a costly venture

Scott Miller
Eagle County Correspondent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Eagle County officials estimate the cost of improving the Eagle County portion of Cottonwood Pass Road could range from more than $40 million to nearly $70 million. Costs could derail the idea of using the road as an emergency alternative to Interstate 70.
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EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado – Eagle County Manager Keith Montag last week had a rough estimate of the cost of paving the Cottonwood Pass road: “A helluva lot.” He was right.

The subject of improving the road came up again last week in the wake of a rock slide that closed Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon for almost four days. Over the course of a just a couple of days, county staff members put some numbers to Montag’s guess, and came up with some very big numbers.

According to those estimates, a two-lane paved road that could be maintained all year could cost $47 million or more. Even a two-lane gravel road could cost more than $40 million, due to the costs of buying land, hauling fill material and building the road to resist erosion and slide. A two-lane highway built to the standards of U.S. Highway 6 through the valley would be $66 million or more.

And that’s just for the 15 miles of road in Eagle County. There’s another 10 miles or so of Garfield County road between the pass’s summit and State Highway 82 near Glenwood Springs.

“It’s a huge project,” Eagle County Facilities Management Department Director Tom Johnson said. “We’d obviously need Garfield County to buy in, too.”

The first-look numbers are beyond the financial means of any local governments, and the Colorado Department of Transportation is strapped for cash, too.

Montag said Pitkin County officials during a meeting earlier this week suggested going to the Federal Highway Agency with a request for funding.

But even if money could be found, there are other big issues.

“This could open up a whole new area to development,” Commissioner Jon Stavney said. He added that Grand Avenue in Glenwood Springs is already close to gridlocked during the morning and evening commutes. Putting more traffic on that street could be a nightmare.

While the project looks like it might not go anywhere, Commissioner Sara Fisher said it was at least worth putting some rough numbers to the idea.

“At least this way we have something to take to [state officials],” she said.


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