County commissioners concerned with fate of summer Judd Falls bus loop

Plan to take issue to STOR

By Cayla Vidmar

During recent updates to both the Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte Town Councils, Mountain Express transit manager Chris Larsen announced that the organization was considering discontinuing the summer service to Judd Falls.

At this week’s Gunnison Board of County Commissioners meeting, commissioners Roland Mason and John Messner advocated for trying to come up with a solution to keep the buses running in the summer. Messner said he would bring up the issue at the upcoming Sustainable Tourism and Outdoor Recreation (STOR) committee meeting, a place he said is perfect for solving such a puzzle.

“I spoke with Chris recently and his concern was getting the big bus between Gothic and Judd Falls with all the cars parking along the road. There were some narrow misses where the bus almost wasn’t able to turn around,” Mason told the board, saying he wanted to brainstorm solutions to keep the loop going.

Mason explained that the overflow parking in the area during peak summer days was an issue, and if one car parked incorrectly, it could jeopardize the bus being able to maneuver on the already narrow U.S. Forest Service (USFS) road. If something happened, Mason said, “The radio doesn’t work back there, and neither do cell phones.”

County deputy director Marlene Crosby noted how much the Crested Butte Conservation Corps helped on days when they were in the area, directing traffic and helping visitors park. Mason agreed, and the commissioners discussed options of paying someone—like the Conservation Corps—to work over the busy summer weekends.

Messner said this issue is a relevant conversation for the STOR committee, whose members include recreation stakeholders in the valley, town representatives and employees of the USFS and the National Park Service.

Crosby concluded by reminding the group how much the county had already invested in the road to Gothic to allow the large buses to travel there, including culvert work and retaining walls.

Other north valley road news

Crosby told the board she was hoping to move forward with an engineering company to begin evaluating the Gothic Road bridge spanning the Slate River north of Crested Butte to see if rehabilitation is possible, as opposed to replacing the bridge altogether—an improvement that has been on the county capital improvement plan for a number of years.

Crosby told the board the bridge has been deemed “functionally obsolete” since the county widened the road, but not the bridge. However, in a recent state evaluation, the bridge was categorized as “structurally deficient” as well. Crosby stressed that the bridge’s meeting these categories does not mean the bridge is unsafe, but rather it begins the process for rehabilitation or replacement.

Crosby said the actual construction on the bridge will likely not occur until 2021 at the earliest, and the BOCC was on board with Crosby beginning the inspection of the bridge.

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