Shorter detour for local traffic to be available starting Monday twice a day

Shorter detour for local traffic to be available starting Monday twice a day

Lake City Cutoff a way for cars and light trucks to bypass closed bridge

By Mark Reaman

A limited local detour will be open daily starting Monday, April 22 to make for a much shorter distance to get around the so-called Middle Bridge on Highway 50 that was closed due to significant structural defects discovered last Thursday. Gunnison County and the Colorado Department of Transportation have been working for several days to shore up the Lake City Cutoff Road officially known as County Road 26 to get it ready for increased traffic volumes.

Basically, the road will be open from 6 a.m. to 6:30 a.m. for westbound travel between Gunnison and Montrose. Vehicles heading east in the morning from Montrose to Gunnison will be able to use the road from 7 a.m. until 7:30 a.m. Similar openings will be effect in the evening with westbound traffic being allowed between 6 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. and eastbound traffic flowing between 7 and 7:30 p.m. Westbound vehicles will queue up at Colorado Road 149 and County Road 26. Eastbound vehicles will line up at U.S. 50 and County Road 26.

According to a press release issued Sunday afternoon, “In order to maintain this route, crews will need time to do any repairs to CR 26 so no other public travel will be allowed outside of these times. No trailers of any type will be allowed, and the detour will not be open to commercial vehicles in excess of 16,001 GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating). Prohibited vehicles will need to use detours on I-70 or Colorado Highway 160 to travel between Gunnison and Montrose.”

The press release also stated that “to open this as a viable detour, traffic will need to be managed through the use of pilot vehicles. CR 26 (also known as Lake City Cutoff) is a high mountain native surface road that is not built to maintain existing US Highway 50 traffic levels.”

County Road 26 is a dirt road that normally does not open until the middle of May depending on snow and spring runoff conditions. But given the gravity of the bridge closure, the county and state pulled out all the stops this past weekend to get the road in good enough condition to handle cars and light trucks. It was emphasized emphatically that commercial tractor trailers will not be allowed on the road and such vehicles will still have to use one of CDOT’s recommended 300+ mile detours. Either of those add more than six hours of driving time to get between Gunnison and Montrose. The Lake City Cutoff detour should add about an hour in travel time.

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County manager Matthew Birnie said the county is also working with CDOT “to get additional state resources to get Kebler Pass Road open, but that will take weeks to get it ready for traffic.” Kebler normally does not open until Memorial Day Weekend but again, given the serious situation with the bridge closure, efforts will be made to open it as soon as safely possible.

The Crested Butte News will continue to update the situation as it develops.

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