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Eagle County officials still seeing motorists on misguided detours

Greyhound bus, semi truck stuck on backcountry roads

A Greyhound bus Saturday tried to go around Glenwood Canyon on the Coffeepot Road in Eagle and Garfield counties. The bus as of Monday was still sitting on the narrow backcountry road.
Gerri Bruggink/Special to the Daily

As a long-lasting Glenwood Canyon closure persists, motorists are still trying to find short cuts between Eagle and Garfield counties. Those detours can end badly.

A Greyhound bus Saturday ventured up the Coffeepot Road, making it about 20 miles up the steep, rough road before a massive oil leak stranded the vehicle in Garfield County.

The bus is still sitting in the road, with a large puddle of motor oil behind it. Amber Barrett of the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office said Monday the vehicle will have to be fixed at the site, then taken back down.



Because of that incident, about 25 people ended up at the park and ride lot in Eagle, waiting for another bus.

Vicente Valdez, a busser at Pazzo’s in Eagle, had just ridden a local bus to work, and saw the group. A bit later, someone walked into the restaurant and said the group was still at the parking area, and had been waiting for hours without food or water on a hot, smoky day.

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Someone else had bought bottled water for the group, but the folks at Pazzo’s baked and sliced several pies to feed the group.

“Hopefully they all got to their destinations,” Valdez said.

The big-rig mishaps continued over the weekend.

A stranded semi

A tractor-trailer rig Sunday tried to head north of Gypsum up Trail Gulch Road. The back wheels of the trailer fell off the narrow road, stranding the vehicle up that narrow road.

As of mid-day Monday, Barrett said the truck is still stuck.

As the canyon closure enters its second full week — it closed indefinitely July 29 — Barrett said the Sheriff’s Office and the Eagle County Road and Bridge Department still have their hands full trying to keep people off secondary roads.

Deputies assigned to Gypsum are “really getting hammered,” Barrett said. “Calls for service are probably hourly,” and include everything from speeding to large vehicles heading where they shouldn’t.

“It’s just a lot of manpower and a lot of hours,” Barrett said.

And, while county and state officials have been trying to get Cottonwood Pass, Crooked Creek Pass and other secondary routes removed from mapping apps, that effort has been only partially successful. As of Monday morning, Google Maps routed travelers to the official detour through Steamboat Springs and Craig. But the Waze app as of Monday still listed Cottonwood Pass as an alternate route between Gypsum and Glenwood Springs.

While Cottonwood Pass is carrying a good bit of local traffic, it’s still being used by people unfamiliar with the road.

The pass was closed briefly Monday due to an overturned car on the Eagle County side.

Some help has arrived

Local authorities as of Sunday got some help from the Colorado National Guard. An emergency declaration from Gov. Jared Polis authorized the National Guard to help with traffic management and control.

Colorado National Guard Specialist Rodriguez closes down Cottonwood Pass for a vehicle recovery around 11:30 on Monday morning.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

At the moment, that’s the extent of the National Guard’s involvement.

Micki Trost is the strategic communications director and public information officer for the Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. Trost said expanding the Guard’s role in the disaster — aiding digging out the highway, for example — would require a new executive order from Polis.

Most incidents like those this weekend aren’t as serious, but Barrett said plenty of motorists are still getting stuck or lost.

During one jam-up on Crooked Creek Pass above Sylvan Lake, Barrett said help couldn’t even get up to the front of the line to help.

“There was nothing we could do,” Barrett said, adding a now-familiar reminder to stop relying on phone apps.

In many cases, she said, “You just cannot take passenger vehicles up there.”

The official detours

The Colorado Department of Transportation has an official detour around Glenwood Canyon.

That detour, which goes north from Interstate 70 to Steamboat Springs and Craig, adds about 200 miles and perhaps four hours to a trip from Denver to Grand Junction. But you won’t get lost or stranded on a dirt road.

State officials have also paused a construction project about halfway between Gunnison and Montrose, so U.S. Highway 50 is now an alternate route.


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