Garfield commissioners want Cottonwood Pass to stay in county hands

That includes even if it becomes a detour during Interstate 70 closures in Glenwood Canyon

A steady stream of traffic makes its way over Cottonwood Pass between Glenwood Springs and Gypsum during last summer’s I-70 closure in Glenwood Canyon due to mudslides.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Cottonwood Pass between Garfield and Eagle counties should remain under county control if it becomes a detour during Interstate 70 closures in Glenwood Canyon, Garfield County Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said.

County commissioners last week signed a letter of support for the “I-70 Detour Act,” a bill proposed by U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo.

It would require the U.S. Secretary of Transportation to conduct a study to come up with several alternatives in the event of extended I-70 closures such as what occurred during the 2020 Grizzly Creek Fire and the ensuing mudslides last summer.

Specific in those alternatives would be for the federal government to work with Garfield and Eagle counties to plan for and make improvements to the seasonal rural route over Cottonwood Pass, so that it could become a year-round alternative for passenger vehicles and smaller commercial trucks.

In doing that, though, the roads should remain as county roads rather than become part of the state highway system, Jankovsky said.

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“An improved, year-round county road benefits the residents who live up there, where a highway really doesn’t,” Jankovsky said after Monday’s regular Board of County Commissioners meeting.

The route, even if improved, should also remain closed to semi tractor-trailer rigs, Jankovsky said.

Commissioners, in their letter of support for Boebert’s proposed legislation, also identified Catherine Store Road (County Road 100) east of Carbondale as the preferred route from Colorado Highway 82 to Cottonwood Pass.

“There are so many residents up there that I don’t see how you can do anything more than keep it as a county road,” Jankovsky said.

Commissioners removed any references to specific costs for suggested improvements due to inflation, but Garfield County alone is looking at several million dollars worth of work to straighten out a series of 90-degree turns on Catherine Store Road before it intersects with Upper Cattle Creek Road.

Eagle County has estimated at least $15 million in improvements on the Gypsum side of the pass.

One suggestion from state highway officials in previous conversations would be to build a new route from the pass down Cottonwood Creek directly to I-70 near Dotsero.

However, Jankovsky said he’s worried that option would cost “hundreds of millions” of dollars and require a lengthy federal environmental assessment, delaying any usable detour route for several years.

Jankovsky also said he does not want to see lower Cattle Creek Road (County Road 113) become a route option, due to the greater number of residences that are close to the road along that section that would have to be acquired for that to be feasible.

“Catherine Store Road isn’t the closest to I-70, but it impacts fewer residents,” Jankovsky said.

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