Avon population

Work on Vail Pass, Glenwood Canyon and other area road projects in the CDOT update

Colorado National Guard Staff Sgt. Duke and Specialist Thorson talk to dispatchers over the radio and direct traffic on Cottonwood Pass in 2021.
Chelsea Freelance / Freelance position

National roads and highways on the western side require a lot of work. Much of this work is planned for Garfield and Eagle counties.

Garfield and Eagle county commissioners heard separate updates on that work Monday from Colorado Department of Transportation officials. The state has five transportation districts, including Region 3 which encompasses most of the West Rim and has more than 5,000 miles of state highway lanes, with roads ranging from high mountains to desert environments.

The group meeting was led by Transportation District Regional Manager Jason Smith, who told commissioners “there are a lot of good things happening” in the area.

Some of the good news comes from Glenwood Canyon. After Debris flows 2021 closed Interstate 70 for just over two weeks, Smith told commissioners there was no debris flow.

That appears consistent with a general five-year window of landslide and debris hazard from large wildfires, Smith said. “We hope for less and less” over time, he added.

As the danger of the canyon closing appears to be easing, Smith said transportation officials are looking for ways to modify current tactics that close the canyon during flash flood warnings.

When the canyon closes, many motorists travel between Gypsum and Glenwood Springs via Cottonwood Pass.

Commissioner Matt Scherr noted that state assistance for this road between Eagle and Garfield counties is for safety reasons, not to make the road an alternative to the freeway.

At the east end of the Eagle River Valley, the state is working on Vail Pass Works ranging from rerouting part of the recreational trail, replacing bridges, smoothing curves and adding a third lane to the eastbound and westbound lanes.

The project includes the reconstruction of the Vail Pass Rest Area. Commissioner Jeanne McQueeney asked if the state could install an electric vehicle charging station at this new facility.

Transportation Commission Chair Kathy Hall noted that federal law prohibits allowing vendors to be part of the U.S. highway system. Even installing a county-funded feeder at the site would require federal approval, Hall said.

While major projects are getting the most attention, Region 3 transportation planner Mark Rogers said projects with local governments have tripled in recent years. Rogers acknowledged that transportation officials are catching up with those project requests and contracts. These projects in Eagle County include one of US Highway 6 via EagleVail and Avon to add better roadway lighting and other safety improvements.

Vail Director of Public Works Greg Hall was at Monday’s meeting and mentioned that much of the lighting is out at Vail’s East Vail and West Vail I-70 interchange. Current regulations make municipalities responsible for these fires. But, Hall said, city crews aren’t trained to work along interstate highways.

As the state’s population grows, transportation officials are looking at other ways to move people and goods.

Kathy Hall noted that state officials are trying to encourage people and shippers to fly into airports in Eagle County or Grand Junction.

So far, however, these efforts have not been very effective, she noted.