CDOT updates Eagle County on proposed Cottonwood Pass safety upgrades |

CDOT updates Eagle County on proposed Cottonwood Pass safety upgrades

The improvement plan will include design recommendations to modify 14 hot spots for traffic and safety issues

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

Colorado Department of Transportation officials presented an update on proposed safety improvements to Cottonwood Pass during a Monday work session with the Eagle County Board of Commissioners.

When the closure of Glenwood Canyon last summer redirected substantial traffic to Cottonwood Pass, a number of safety issues were highlighted on the route.

County Engineer Ben Gerdes shared that traffic counts from last year show that the pass sees around 350 vehicle trips per day under normal conditions, and experiences ​​4,500-5,500 vehicle trips during road closures that force drivers to take the pass to reach their destination.

Gerdes also noted that Eagle County’s Road and Bridge Department spent around 2,500 hours of flagging time helping to direct traffic through sections of the road that are supporting far more transit than for which they were designed.

“There’s a huge impact to the road, and it’s just not designed to handle two-way traffic in all these locations,” Gerdes said. “There was a significant impact to Road and Bridge operations and manpower expended … to make things flow, so that’s our focus, is lessening that burden on Road and Bridge and making things a little safer out there.”

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Together, Garfield County and Eagle County have identified 14 locations along the pass as “hot spots” for traffic and safety issues. Eight of the locations are on the Garfield County side, while six are in Eagle County.

Six of the fourteen areas for modification to Cottonwood Pass are located in Eagle County. Blue Hill has been identified as the top priority for improving road safety.
Eagle County/Courtesy Photo

CDOT design project manager Jacob Rivera and resident engineer Karen Berdoulay presented each of the six locations to the Eagle County Board of Commissioners and described the proposed mitigation for each. Most of the proposed adjustments involve flattening out tight curves in the road to increase sight distance, while widening roads in some locations and adding a guardrail to one.

“Our goal is safety improvements — not changing the character of the road, not finding a way to get more trucks there, it’s really just safety improvements in these 14 areas,” Berdoulay said.

The top priority for both counties is to improve the Blue Hill segment of the road, a site that has required the most amount of flag time due to its sharp curves and narrow width.

“It’s probably the spot that most people remember when they drive Cottonwood Pass,” Rivera said.

CDOT will also be engaging with the public starting early this summer to help inform the design process.

“Part of our public outreach will be to ask the public for what’s important to them, what are the core values and also what are the priorities so that we can get all of that information to Eagle County and ask you to make decisions on what you would like to move forward with for cost estimating,” Berdoulay said.

Most of the proposed adjustments to Cottonwood Pass involve flattening out tight curves in the road to increase sight distance.
Eagle County/Courtesy Photo

The planning process will continue over the course of this summer, with an end date for the improvements aimed at spring 2023.

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