Sections won’t be connected
Kebler Pass is going to get a makeover with funds available to Gunnison County through a $500,000 Department of Local Affairs grant. The money will allow up to eight miles of the road to be resurfaced with either chip and seal paving or traditional paving, says Gunnison County director of public works Marlene Crosby.
The county first sought the grant for the road improvements two years ago but was unable to secure the funding. Another attempt was made in December 2007 and the grant application was accepted.
The county is now in the contract process associated with the DOLA grant, which requires the county and then the state to review and sign a contract detailing how the money is being used before any of the money is distributed.
The funds are generated from “the state severance tax on energy and mineral production and from a portion of the state’s share of royalties paid to the federal government for mining and drilling of minerals and mineral fuels on federally owned land,” according to the DOLA website.
Communities that are affected by the development or processing of mineral or mineral fuels are then eligible to apply for grants from the fund to improve or construct many public facilities, including roads.
Crosby does not know when the work on Kebler Pass will start because the process is ongoing, but after the contract is signed by the state, the county will then be able to submit costs for the project and be reimbursed. The county will also provide in-kind contributions for the resurfacing by providing the services to complete the project.
The funds will provide paving material and the costs of the work, which have increased since the grant was applied for, and as a result will most likely keep the paved areas to less than the originally planned eight miles, says Crosby.
The newly paved section will not be continuous, but instead will cover only those areas requiring recurring maintenance. Kebler Pass road is slightly more than 29 miles in length and serves as the major summertime route of travel from Crested Butte to Paonia and Aspen and is part of the West Elk Scenic Byway. About three miles of the road are already paved.
But the costs of paving the road will show a return for the county, which spent almost $131,000 on magnesium chloride for Kebler Pass in the summer of 2007, says Crosby. The cost of the chemical, which is applied to control dust and erosion on unimproved roads, has doubled since 2006.
When the grant was first applied for, some members of the Crested Butte Town Council felt that paving sections of the pass would encourage more traffic on Whiterock Avenue, where the pass road ends, and would also allow for traffic to drive faster on the road. But those concerns have not been voiced since the grant was awarded, says Crested Butte mayor Alan Bernholtz.
“I have not heard of anything from the council so it must not be an issue,” says Bernholtz.
Initially, questions about the effects paving would have on the town were raised after the county requested a letter of support from the town for the grant application, although the town had not been made aware that any effort to permanently improve Kebler was being made.
“We just didn’t know anything about it at the time. We know that the county has the best interest of everyone in mind,” says Bernholtz.