Hope is to have local detour around Highway 50 in place by Monday

Hope is to have local detour around Highway 50 in place by Monday

Lake City Cutoff is the focus

by Mark Reaman

Though it is currently closed to all but emergency personnel, Colorado and Gunnison County officials are working diligently to have a local detour open on County Road 26, the Lake City Cutoff road, by Monday for car and light vehicles given the closure of the Middle Bridge across Blue Mesa Reservoir by the Dillon Pinnacles. County officials said Friday the cutoff road is not currently able to handle large volumes of traffic and the County crews need time without other vehicles on the road to improve it adequately to be a safe detour. If the road opens on Monday, it will be for very limited, predetermined times in the morning and evening, likely with a pilot car.

Gunnison County Manager Matthew Birnie said Friday evening that all of the county and state resources in the area are being focused on the cutoff road that would allow vehicles to bypass the Middle Bridge on Highway 50 that will remain closed due to a structural defect for an undetermined amount of time. That local detour would add about an hour of travel time between Gunnison and Montrose. The Colorado Department of Transportation is currently funneling cars through I-70 to the north or Highway 160 to the south that adds more than six hours of travel time.

Birnie said County Road 26 is a dirt road and literally tons of gravel are being laid on the road this weekend, but it is not up to standards to accommodate commercial vehicles and heavy trucks. “We still do not have an idea of how long the bridge will be closed but we are doing everything possible to get a detour in place for local traffic,” he said. While no cost estimate has been determined to get that road open, and no details have been decided on who will pay for it, Birnie expected the work to end up costing hundreds of thousands of dollars.

As for Kebler Pass Road, Birnie said county officials have assessed the situation and given the amount of snow in that area it would be several weeks before it could be opened. He said the focus will be on County Road 26.

Meanwhile, Gunnison Valley Health is on top of the situation. In a press release, GVH said “the closure of the Highway 50 and Middle Bridge does present numerous serious health and safety risks to the community, but GVH Incident Command is working on mitigation plans for all critical services. Gunnison Valley Health Paramedics have plans in place to ensure that patients in need of a higher level of care can be transported effectively. Gunnison Valley Health CEO, Jason Amrich, said that the health system is working with state and local agencies to ensure that patients have access to care and critical supply deliveries.”

CDOT officials said in a Friday statement that “Anyone with questions can reach out via 970-648-4423 or  us50bridge@gmail.com. Calls will be closely monitored and will receive a prompt reply. Information is also available on the project website at bit.ly/us50bridge. Travelers should refer to COtrip.org or the smartphone COtrip Planner app to plan an alternate route. A local alternate route is not open at this time.

“Crews are collaborating to deal with areas on seasonal roads that are water-logged from Spring runoff and will need repairs in order to support traffic,” the CDOT statement continued. “CDOT teams have been hauling gravel and equipment to help manage these trouble spots on the seasonal county roads. As the roads stabilized, they will first be available for local emergency services while plans are developed to support limited local travel.

The Crested Butte News will continue to update the situation as more information becomes available.

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