Sep 28, 2021 - Business
Business leaders demand fast action on Glenwood Canyon alternative route
 Crews work to reopen Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon after a mudslide in August. Photo: RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images
Crews work to reopen Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon after a mudslide in August. Photo: RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images

The precarious state of Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon is leading Grand Junction officials to press the administration of Gov. Jared Polis to act swiftly on an alternative route.

Why it matters: The possibility of mudslides continues to cause intermittent closures of the winding interstate when the forecast includes precipitation, disrupting a key connector for commerce on the Western Slope.

State of play: The extended closure of I-70 this summer after landslides blocked the tiered road renewed conversations about an alternate route on Cottonwood Pass Road between Gypsum and south of Glenwood Springs.

  • The 26-mile mountainous stretch is currently a curvy dirt road and the width of only one lane in some places.
  • Colorado Department of Transportation officials studied the feasibility of an upgrade about 10 years ago and determined it would cost $50 million to $200 million depending on the environmental impact.

What's happening: The talks about the alternative route need to move faster, Robin Brown, former executive director Grand Junction Economic Partnership, recently told Colorado Public Radio.

  • "It's a big lift," she said, "but in my mind the answers are pretty obvious. It just needs to be funded and needs to be done."
  • Brown suggested the state's transportation officials avoid getting "caught up in the bureaucracy of studies and trying to get communities on board."

The other side: The road is owned by Garfield and Eagle counties, and the state's transportation chief engineer Steve Harelson told Axios Denver that the local communities "control what they want the solution to look like."

  • Harelson noted leaders in Mesa County who are urging quick action probably wouldn't want the state to come take over a road in their community either. "It's not about Grand Junction, it's about other counties as well," he said.
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