Planning begins for CB to CB South rec path

Roundabout plans for Brush Creek also underway

By Katherine Nettles

Gunnison County officials are working on a design plan in the event that a multimodal recreation path connecting Crested Butte to Crested Butte South gets approved by the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT). However, there are many questions that remain such as timing, location and costs. The potential route’s exact path is uncertain, and it may take some time before CDOT’s Region 3 office approves using the right-of-way on Highway 135, if it does so at all. 

Subscribing to the belief that funding is more likely to come to shovel-ready plans, Gunnison County has begun moving into a design planning phase that may take up to a year, including land surveys and fundraising.

The county has chosen international design studio Design Workshop as the lead designer for the project. Design Workshop has nearby office locations in Denver and Aspen, and according to Gunnison County assistant county manager for public works Martin Schmidt and assistant county manager for community and economic development Cathie Pagano,  the parties are in the midst of negotiating a contract.  

Pagano said cost estimates for the project will not come until a design plan is complete, likely in 2024. Gunnison County received a federal grant of $200,000 through the Safe Streets and Roads for All (SS4A) grant program. 

The program is is providing $5 billion in funds across the U.S. over the next five years. The county secured the funding by presenting a joint application with the Town of Crested Butte and the City of Gunnison for an action-planning grant for the Highway 135 corridor. “The focus of this grant funding will be intersection safety improvements, mostly at jurisdictional boundaries,” said Schmidt. “We are working on the contracting and will go out to bid for a consultant this summer.”

CDOT’s approval for use of its right-of-way is critical to the project, because the trail will have to go in adjacent to Highway 135. The trail project, being referred to as CB2CBS, has no exact route to either the northeast side of the highway or the southwest, but it has become clear that attaining numerous property easements to veer away from the highway would be problematic—previous attempts to do so have delayed efforts to kick off the project for decades.

The SS4A grant may help the rec path project move forward as well as another North Valley project proposal in the Highway 135 corridor.

Roundabout and corridor planning

While the county pursues planning the CB2CBS path, it is also applying to several federal and state programs for funding other projects, including plans for a potential roundabout at Brush Creek Road’s intersection with Highway 135. That intersection has been on CDOT’s radar for years as a challenging, and at times dangerous, area during snow and ice events. The possible addition of the county’s 230-unit Whetstone Community Housing project across the highway has brought new attention to improving the intersection, including a possible pedestrian underpass. County officials and consultants believe that intersection redesign is likely to get approved and move more quickly than the CB2CBS path.

“The SS4A grant is a full corridor planning grant for 135. There will be information about the Crested Butte to Crested Butte South trail and the roundabout incorporated into the action plan because it would increase safety for users,” said Schmidt. But he added that the overall corridor planning would be looking at the bigger picture, and the details of specific trails and intersections would be pieces of a larger puzzle. 

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