Vail Daily’s View: Time for a doodlebug in Glenwood Canyon?
Vail, CO, Colorado
The rockslide that closed Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon for much of last week again opened the conversation about what, if anything, can be done to provide an emergency alternate route to that important highway lifeline.
There are two people in this office who had to drive the 200-mile canyon detour this week, so we have firsthand reports about that trek. And we can appreciate the first-glance appeal of improving Cottonwood Pass Road between Gypsum and Glenwood Springs into an all-weather road.
But the idea faces a long list of potential stumbling blocks, any one of which could be a deal-killer.
The biggest problem, of course, is money. Even the process of getting a firm estimate on how much it would cost to improve the road could cost $500,000 or more, and the work itself would cost millions more.
It’s probably just not possible to create a real alternative to I-70 through the canyon. But the fact of the matter is that rocks are going to fall in the canyon, and some of those slides are going to close the highway. It could be 24 hours or two weeks, but the highway’s going to close again.
Instead of a road, though, why don’t we look at a real emergency solution that would use the rail line through the canyon?
There are self-propelled rail cars – some early-1900s versions were called “doodlebugs” – that could move workers back and forth from Garfield to Eagle County and, perhaps, tourists who fly into Eagle on their way to Aspen. That shuttle also could bring Eagle County patients to Valley View Hospital in emergencies.
Existing bus systems and taxi companies on both sides of the canyon could be used to get shuttle passengers to their ultimate destinations between Aspen and Vail.
A combination of state and local governments would have to create the shuttle, but if the idea of a rail trip through the canyon caught on, perhaps a private operator could turn the emergency plan into regular service.
Creating that emergency plan wouldn’t be cheap, but it would surely be far less expensive than building a road almost from scratch.
It wouldn’t solve the problem of canyon closures for truckers or travelers, but it would be something locals could count on when our geography throws an occasional fit.
Vail Daily Editorial Board