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Improving Guanella Pass?

Brief by Central Staff

Transportation – November 2002 – Colorado Central Magazine

Guanella Pass crosses the west flank of the Mt. Evans massif, connecting Georgetown in Clear Creek County to Grant in Park County.

It’s a twisting, narrow gravel road that the Federal Highway Administration wants to improve. After years of hearings and the like, the FHWA on Sept. 26 issued its final Environmental Impact Statement for a Guanella project.

The preferred alternative would keep the road rural, with a design speed of 20 to 30 mph and a roadway width of 22 feet. Most of the road would get surfaced, and it would be able to handle vehicles with a wheelbase of up to 17 feet.

FHWA administrator Mary Peters called it “a great example of context-sensitive design in action,” since it creates “a safer facility that serves the needs of local residents and visitors alike while respecting the surrounding environment.”

After deciding that another public hearing on Guanella Pass plans would be a waste of time, the Park County Commissioners voted on Oct. 3 to send a letter of concurrence to the FHWA. The commissioners had wanted the entire road to be paved, but agreed to compromise and support the preferred alternative.

Although there was no formal public hearing before the commissioners voted, Briggs Cunningham was allowed to speak on behalf of Friends of Guanella Pass, an umbrella group which wanted to keep the road rustic and minimize widening and paving.

Also speaking was Jay Gingrich of Alma, who said he feared that an improved Guanella Pass would attract too much traffic as a connector between Interstate 70 and U.S. 285. Guanella should be designed, he said, to reduce speeds and discourage I-70 overflow, and one way to do that would be not to install guardrails, so that drivers would be more cautious. “The road should remain primitive,” he said. “Sometimes less is better.”

The FHWA will take comments until Nov. 27, and construction is scheduled to begin in the summer of 2003. The FHWA’s regional office is at 555 Zang Street, Lakewood CO 80228.