Cottonwood Pass

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"Whether it is the use of chutes or other preventative measures, 

it would seem that it is time for CDOT to make a determination of what other measures should be taken to harden the canyon from further slides and resultant closures because there are no other practical alternate routes for commercial trucking." 

~ KMOHR President, Karen Moculeski

"The Colorado Department of Transportation received a $140.9 million funding package approved from the Colorado Transportation Commission. CDOT will be focusing on applying this funding to state-of-good-repair essentials, a CDOT news release states. The funding package includes $65 million for culvert repair and replacement. Culverts are tunnels beneath roads that help water drain properly near roadways, which remain helpful in terms of rain, flooding and mudslides, such as ones by Paonia in Spring 2022 and Glenwood Springs in 2021. This would be the largest investment in culverts in CDOT history, the news release states. The mudslides in Glenwood Canyon in 2021 were devastating, closing Interstate 70 for a couple of days, into the weekend. Although no one was hurt in these mudslides, it caused delays and more than 100 people were temporarily trapped in the canyon. The slides were caused by debris from the 2020 Grizzly Creek Fire that slid down after a storm cell moved over it. "

Cottonwood Pass - CDOT presented The Draft Concept Design report for Cottonwood Pass to Eagle and Garfield Counties in mid-September. Garfield County is not currently planning on making the cited improvements to Catherine Store and Cottonwood Pass. They verbally supported Eagle County in making improvements to Cottonwood Pass using both Eagle County and Federal funds. Eagle is planning to make simple improvements (e.g., curve softening) using existing County funds. If a large Federal grant comes through in January, they will begin prioritizing the more difficult improvements for the Blue Hill section.

KMOHR has advocated for stakeholder involvement as CDOT, Garfield and Eagle County participated in a feasibility study for improving Cottonwood Pass. We worked to facilitate public understanding of the project and to promote public participation. 

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CDOT presented The Draft Concept Design report for Cottonwood Pass on:

9/12 Eagle County BOCC Watch here (Starts at 56 minutes)

9/18 Garfield County BOCC Watch Here

The draft final Concept Design report is posted online

Email to Garfield County BOCC

9/18 CDOT presentation of draft final Cottonwood Pass Report

Wed, Sep 13, 2:53 PM

Please include the following email to the Commissioners and attached KMOHR Position Statement with the Commissioner's packet of information for the September 18, 2023, BOCC meeting:

Dear Commissioners:

Keep MO Heights Rural's mission is to preserve the rural character, sustainability, safety and quality of life of Missouri Heights, an elevated desert with a fragile environment. Our purpose is to protect against unbridled and commercial development and other incompatible land uses as well as actions that put a strain on vital resources and infrastructure, especially to preserve water and prevent wildfire. Overall, we are opposed to measures that negatively impact the serene character and safety of the area and its wildlife habitats.  

Representatives of KMOHR, with the exception of the last meeting in Gypsum, attended all public meetings and property owner ITF meetings, held by CDOT in its study of the Cottonwood Pass sites identified by Eagle County and Garfield County for possible improvement.  We have drafted a short position statement, attached, which we believe, more fully describes the public's position regarding the expenditure of relatively large sums of public funds to improve few or possibly only one site on Cottonwood Pass. Such public expenditure would be better used to harden Glenwood Canyon so that the Pass truly is for local use.  Given that normal local vehicle trips run somewhere between 350-400 vehicles per day, the question needs to be asked whether an expenditure of $55-$59M, which is where Eagle County is headed with its recent grant application for $23M, makes sense for the Blue Hill area.  What is the cost-benefit analysis for such an expenditure?

It is our understanding that as of this date, Garfield County has reserved its decision with regard to moving forward on possible improvements.  It was notable during the public meetings that property owners and members of the public questioned the selection of Catherine Store road as the route to Hwy 82 for numerous reasons and further study including public input, seems merited prior to any improvement to Catherine Store.  

We sincerely thank you for your public service and careful consideration in this matter.

Karen Moculeski, President

P.O.Box 1381

Carbondale, CO  81623

Click the Photo to read the entire letter

 excerpted here.

"It is important to recognize that use of this “Concept Design” for addressing future traffic beyond local volumes is completely inappropriate. It would be far more effective to utilize future public monies to improve Glenwood Canyon by tackling debris flow, traffic safety and other hazards that close I-70 instead of pursuing expedient solutions on country roads through very rural portions of Garfield and Eagle Counties. Poorly considered solutions to the I-70 closures utilizing Cottonwood Pass are prohibitively expensive and will destroy the pastoral character and qualities of the lands that will be impacted. The Cottonwood Pass Concept Design ideas should only be used to improve roads for local traffic during nonwinter months. This project objective should be clearly stated at the beginning of the document and in all conclusions to ensure that the information is not used inappropriately in the future to create an I-70 detour for Glenwood Canyon closures."

CDOT finally admits that this project is about more than safety for local users of Cottonwood Pass

"Cottonwood Pass is a vital connection for local residents who rely on the county road to safely travel between Gypsum and CO 82 in the Roaring Fork Valley. It is often used as an undesignated alternate route when Glenwood Canyon is closed, which has escalated the urgency of addressing safety issues in a timely fashion. Gathering public input and estimating the magnitude of construction costs for the early concept designs will help Eagle and Garfield counties determine if and when improvements at each site would move forward.

KMOHR discussed CW Pass with Gov. Polis on August 21, 2022 in Carbondale.

Our president and one of our Board Members got some face time with the Governor on Sunday. Discussion points included: 

Follow-up Letter to the Editor from the KMOHR President

"As a partial response to LJ Erspamer’s letter (“Canyon needs avalanche chutes,” Sept. 5) concerning the use of avalanche-type chutes in Glenwood Canyon to mitigate future rockslides, individuals associated with Keep MO Heights Rural, a nonprofit organization, have posed the question of the use of chutes to CDOT, Garfield County officials and the governor’s office and have received various replies such as “it won’t work,” “ it would result in ­debris in the river” and “it costs too much.”

Whether it is the use of chutes or other preventative measures, it would seem that it is time for CDOT to make a determination of what other measures should be taken to harden the canyon from further slides and resultant closures because there are no other practical alternate routes for commercial trucking."

Karen Moculeski

This is just one example of why it is important to donate to KMOHR!

Why should you stay informed and get involved?

"With the information provided by this project, Eagle and Garfield counties will determine next steps for implementing improvements. Concept design is expected to be complete by early 2023. The counties will complete design and evaluate pursuing construction of improvements as funding becomes available in the future."

Although safety improvement is the stated goal of this feasibility study.....

Cottonwood Pass is on Gov. Polis's radar as closures continue in Glenwood Canyon.

There may be significant changes if improvements are made and if the residents don't articulate  concerns now....then CDOT and Eagle and Garfield Counties will be free to make improvements as they see fit.  - As an example, there was no public input or explanation in the selection of Catherine Store Rd. as the "preferred route" connecting the pass to Hwy 82.  

The CDOT Feasibility Study could have a key role in implementing the I-70 Detour Act if enacted. It could potentially inform the DOT study and report required by the Act

These are important reasons why both stakeholder involvement in the CDOT Feasibility Study and donations to KMOHR are very important.