Garfield County may endorse federal study to weigh I-70 closure contingencies, namely Cottonwood Pass

A steady stream of traffic makes its way over Cottonwood Pass between Glenwood Springs and Gyspum due to the I-70 closure in Glenwood Canyon in August 2021.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Garfield County commissioners on Monday will consider support for a bill being floated by 3rd District Congresswoman Lauren Boebert that could kickstart efforts to improve parts of the Cottonwood Pass route to serve as a detour during Interstate 70 closures through Glenwood Canyon.

The one caveat, according to a proposed letter of support for the Boebert bill put forward by Commissioner Tom Jankovsky, is that the route should not be improved to a level that would support large tractor-trailer traffic.

The draft letter also identifies Catherine Store Road (Garfield County Road 100) as the preferred route to access Cottonwood Pass from the Garfield County side, rather than alternative county roads that are closer to Glenwood Springs.

A draft bill prepared by Boebert’s office, called the “I-70 Detour Act,” would require U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg or any of his successors to conduct a study on “the significant improvements and potential alternatives necessary to offset extended closures associated with I-70 …”

The draft proposal notes that the route through Glenwood Canyon is subject to routine, sometimes lengthy closures of I-70 through Glenwood Canyon, such as occurred during the 2020 Grizzly Creek Fire and the mud and debris flows that followed in summer of 2021.

Those closures “are extremely costly, with an economic impact estimated at $1 million per hour” related to disruptions in state and interstate commerce, according to Boebert’s draft bill.

The county, in its draft letter, acknowledges that the impact extends to the local economy, as well.

“Both Garfield and Eagle counties have engaged with CDOT (Colorado Department of Transportation) to identify sections of our respective county road portions of the Cottonwood Pass route that would need improvement,” should it become an alternative detour route.

“In Garfield County, we have identified Catherine Store Road as the preferred route where we have noted five areas that need improvements at an approximate cost of $4 million to $5 million to accommodate high traffic volumes,” the county’s letter states.

Eagle County is looking at roughly $15 million in improvements along the route from Gypsum west into Garfield County, the letter states.

Part of a $116 million request for federal funding from Colorado Gov. Jared Polis to deal with the impacts of the Glenwood Canyon closures after the flood damage last year would go toward alternate detour routes, such as Cottonwood Pass.

Garfield County, in its letter, also notes the importance of federal funding to accomplish the local road improvements.

The item is first up on the county commissioners agenda at 8 a.m. Monday, at the county administration building, 108 Eighth St. in downtown Glenwood Springs, or via Zoom or live webstream.

Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or

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