“It’s frightening. It’s not for the faint of heart or people not used to mountain driving. It certainly can be a dangerous road. It’s not, it’s not a long-term alternative, that’s for sure.”-Jeff Shroll, Eagle County Manager
The massive mudslides on I-70 in Glenwood Canyon mean the interstate could be shut down for weeks or months with the detour tacking hours onto the drive but there is a secret and reportedly unsafe shortcut around I-70 shutdown that The Colorado Department of Transportation has declared too dangerous to route cars and trucks through.
Denver 7 reports parts of the road aren’t paved, several stretches are narrow with steep drop-offs and some sections are steep. Taking Cottonwood Pass carves hours off the detour from Glenwood Springs to Gypsum. Its usually only taken by locals and doesn’t pop up on suggested routes for GPS systems but during the 1-70 closure traffic has increased on the winding mountain pass.
Eagle County has deployed crews to stoptraffic for one-way metering in the steepest, one-lane section of the road, called Blue Hill, during peak traffic times. Meanwhile, crews have set up 24/7 checkpoints on the road to keep off commercial traffic and trucks.
Eagle County has been making improvements to mark the edges of the road and strengthen the surface. It would cost at least $50 million to make more permanent improvements like widening and paving the road for year-round traffic.
“I-70 is one of six East-West interstates in the entire country. When it’s closed, it affects national commerce. It doesn’t need to be an interstate highway. It doesn’t even necessarily need to be a state highway. It needs to be a functional, two-lane, paved, all-weather road.” -Mike Gamba, Former Glenwood Springs Mayor & Advocate for improving Cottonwood Pass
On Monday, CDOT leaders said improving Cottonwood Pass is a long-term conversation, but for people in this region, it has become the most efficient short-term solution: saving jobs and time, but not entirely safe.