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Cottonwood Pass work extending to spring

Water issues, potential spring paving

By Cayla Vidmar

The Cottonwood Pass paving project is currently coming in below cost estimates, despite surface water and groundwater issues. According to a press release from Gunnison County, the contract completion date is slated for November 7, 2018, but there is a possibility to extend the contract through the spring for paving.

“The project is going well and considering the extra work that has been encountered I would say it is on time,” writes deputy county manager Marlene Crosby via email. According to the press release, “The biggest challenge for the contractor has been the presence of both surface and sub-surface water. The surface water has to be managed and the rock found on the project has been placed in buttresses and embankments to mitigate groundwater.” Crosby writes, “The original estimates were for a one year project, but realistically there was too much work in too short a season for that to happen.”

The extra work will likely push the paving of the road into the spring of 2019, and weather is the ultimate determinant in terms of when work can commence in the spring.

Crosby says, “It is hard to say when paving will be complete since the winter will determine when they can resume work in the spring.” Which means, according to the press release, that the contractor will be required to plow the pass in the spring to open it for traffic, with “one-lane closures during the paving just as on any highway project.” Crosby writes that the county tries to have the pass open by Memorial Day, but often they cannot. Regardless if the pass is open, Crosby writes, “It does not mean that temperatures and soil conditions will allow work to resume immediately upon opening.”

According to the press release, “Dr. Duane Vandenbusche, local historian and professor at WSCU, notes that this will be the highest paved road over the Continental Divide in the lower 48 states.”

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