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Crested Butte leery about paving Kebler Pass

Brief by Allen Best

Transportation – January 2008 – Colorado Central Magazine

Crested Butte remains uncertain whether it wants to be more closely connected to the world.

That issue showed up several years ago when paving of Cottonwood Pass on the west side was proposed. It is already paved on the east side, from Buena Vista to the Continental Divide. That paving would have had the practical repercussion of shortening, by about a half-hour, the time it takes to drive between metropolitan Denver and Crested Butte.

The newest issue concerns vehicular access across Kebler Pass, which connects Crested Butte during summer months with Glenwood Springs and Paonia. The 29-mile gravel road is coated at the beginning of each summer with a coat of magnesium chloride, which temporarily eliminates the dust. By late July, however, the dust has returned, as has the washboard, making control difficult on tight corners. And it is, says lawman Brad Phelps, a racetrack for drivers.

Gunnison County officials say that instead of applying mag chloride, which last summer cost $131, 000, they want to pave it with a chip-seal mixture.

Elected officials in Crested Butte aren’t yet opposing the paving, but are concerned that paving the road may increase traffic on the road. That, in turn, could cause more traffic in the residential neighborhood where the road enters Crested Butte. Local officials think that there’s already plenty of traffic there — in summer.

In winter, the pass is closed, and will remain so. Located at a dead end during snow season, Crested Butte is one of Colorado’s most remote places with swimming pools and a Thai restaurant.