cottonwood pass curves

The new road glistens in the afternoon sun Nov. 16 above Avalanche Trailhead. Cottonwood Pass is open to the traditional seasonal closure gates at Denny Creek Trailhead.

Cottonwood Pass will open at the summit on Aug. 12, although paving of the portion of the road that winds down the western slope of the Continental Divide will not be completed until later, said Gunnison County Public Works Director Marlene Crosby.

The road over Cottonwood Pass connecting Buena Vista and Gunnison has been closed since 2017 for a federally-funded paving and rehabilitation project.

The eastern portion of the road, CR 306 in Chaffee County, was completed last year, updating the road’s asphalt for the first time since it was paved in the 1980s, as well as restoring several guardrails, redesigning the parking area at Denny Creek Trailhead and widening the shoulder on the road.

The Gunnison County side of the project, which will see CR 209 paved for the first time, was scheduled to be completed at the same time. However, construction was beset by weather delays from an unusually wet winter.

Crosby said that paving has begun, starting from the bottom of the road, but won’t be completed by Aug. 12.

Until paving is complete, crews will be flagging motorists through single-lane closures.

The U.S. Federal Highway Administration, which is overseeing construction on both sides of the project, says that construction would likely be occurring 7 days a week until a projected completion date in “late summer.”

“Expect delays up to 30 minutes when work is occurring,” the FHA information page says.

According to a presentation by the FHA to Gunnison County Commissioners in February, 311,000 cubic yards of earth has been moved by contractor United Companies for the western side of the project, all 12 miles of road graded and ready for surfacing, over 7 miles of aggregate base down, about two thirds of the road.

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