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Berthoud Pass, Rabbit Ears Pass reopen following wrecks

11:35 a.m.: Rabbit Ears Pass has also reopened.

11 a.m.: Berthoud Pass has reopened following a wreck, but drivers are asked to use extra caution.

Rabbit Ears Pass on US Highway 40 is closed to due multiple crashes. There is no estimated time for reopening.

The Grand County Office of Emergency Management said that 1,500 meters worth of power is out in parts of Granby, Winter Park and Fraser. Crews are working to restore power

Original story: Berthoud Pass is closed from mile markers 243-256 for a wreck on the east side of the pass.

There is no estimate for re-opening the road, which has experienced adverse driving conditions. Go to cotrip.org for updated road conditions.

Also, Winter Park Drive is temporarily closed due to a downed power line.

Vasquez Road is closed near Van Anderson due to a tree across a power line.

CDOT, county move forward with safety improvements on Red Dirt Hill

Improvements to the infamous strip of US Highway 40 know as Red Dirt Hill could come as soon as next year.

Following extensive discussions between the Grand Board of County Commissioners and the Colorado Department of Transportation, certain improvements listed in a study for safety and traffic operations could be implemented starting early next summer.

The CDOT study outlined more than $7 million worth of safety improvements for the section of US 40, spanning from roughly the YMCA-Snow Mountain Ranch to the Church of Eternal Hills between Granby and Tabernash.

Some of the smallest recommended changes could be done “in house” with CDOT. On Tuesday, Traffic Operations Engineer Andi Staley told county commissioners that those changes would be added to CDOT’s work orders to be completed once weather warmed up next year.

Two larger improvements to immediately improve safety with relatively low costs include adding centerline rumble strips near County Road 86 and shoulder rumble strips near County Road 54.

Because of the safety issues, these two improvements would qualify for CDOT’s “hazard money.” Officials said that these improvements would be added to the queue but likely wouldn’t happen until next year at the soonest.

The study also recommended closing County Road 86 West, a small turnoff road that connects to County Road 86. There is an additional turnoff to CR 86 nearby, and the commissioners said they would be willing to close CR 86 West with sufficient notice.

Other intersections along the five-mile strip don’t qualify for hazard funding. Even so, the county commissioners wanted to move forward with other recommended improvements. CDOT warned that designing the improvements would likely not be within the department’s capacity.

However, the commissioners indicated a willingness to use county money to contract a design on Red Dirt Hill. As long as the proposed designs were up to CDOT specifications, officials for the region said they would put higher consideration on work with a design financed by the county.

In the near future, the commissioners said they planned to start working on a request for proposals to address some of the major changes.

The areas the commissioners highlighted as a priority included widening the westbound shoulder near the entrance to Snow Mountain Ranch; adding an eastbound acceleration and deceleration lane in that area; creating turning lanes at County Road 858; and shortening the eastbound climbing lane near County Road 52 to add a left turn lane along with a guardrail in that same area.

The improvements at just these three intersections would cost an estimated $4.4 million.

Design work typically equals 10-15% of the project cost. The commissioners seemed willing to consider using general funds to cover that expense but wanted the work to be thorough if that was the case.

“If we are going to pay for a design, we’re going to pay for a design of the entire intersection,” Commissioner Kris Manguso said.

Because not all of the intersections would qualify for hazard funding, as they don’t reach the benefit cost analysis threshold, other sources of funding for the construction would have to be sought beyond just the cost of the design.

The commissioners said they would follow up with a request for design proposals as CDOT’s planned work on the area progresses.

Motorists should plan for heavy weekend traffic on I-70

Those heading into the mountains this weekend should plan for heavy traffic on Interstate 70 and possible closures through Glenwood Canyon.

I-70 reopened Monday after an extended closure due to the Grizzly Creek Fire, but continuing repairs and weather impacts could close parts of the highway this weekend.

A hazardous weather outlook has been issued for the central mountains this weekend, including I-70 and the much of the Western Slope. Officials from the Colorado Department of Transportation warned that the burn areas from the fire have increased vulnerability for mudslides and rockfall.

It is possible that any of those impacts could require a safety closure in the canyon. Ongoing repair work to power poles will also likely require closures on Saturday in Glenwood Canyon.

In additional to likely closures, motorists in that area should be prepared for reduced speeds and no stopping in the canyon.

Highway closures can last for as little as a few minutes or as long as several hours. Drivers are advised to bring an emergency kit with water, snacks, a flashlight and a blanket. Carry water for your pets as well if you’re traveling with animals.

US 34 bridge project near Grand Lake complete

The Colorado Department of Transportation finished the bridge replacement project on US Highway 34 south of Grand Lake on July 28.

The project began in April 2019 to replace a structurally deficient bridge on US 34 over the Colorado River.

The project started with building a temporary bridge for traffic to allow for work on a new bridge. After a winter shut down, crews continued work including asphalt paving, detour removal and restoration as well as improving grading, drainage and paving.

The project cost $3.4 million according to CDOT’s website, and had originally been slated for completion in October 2019.

Roadwork to start in Fraser on July 20

Work on County Road 8 from US Highway 40 to Wapiti Drive is scheduled to begin July 20 in Fraser.

Due to construction, a complete road closure will occur between the Fraser River Bridge and US 40. A detour for properties on the east side of the Fraser River will be set to direct traffic to County Road 804 to access US 40.

The detour will be in place for approximately three weeks, weather permitting.

Work on the intersection of Eisenhower Drive and US 40 is anticipated to begin in early August, and work on County Road 72 from US 40 to Johns Drive will start after that project is completed.

These roads are part of the town’s capital plan to completely rebuild failing sections of pavement.

Grand County under fire danger warning

Grand County and most of the Western Slope will face critical fire danger conditions with a red flag warning in place until 8 p.m. Wednesday.

According to forecasters, a hot ridge of high pressure to the south combined with an increase in westerly flow aloft will bring critical fire danger to the northern Colorado mountains and high valleys.

Gusty winds up to 35 mph and humidity as low as 8% are expected in the late morning through the afternoon, before winds gradually decrease in the early evening. Humidity will remain low on ridges and thermal belts Wednesday night, but winds will become light.

The National Weather Service at this time advises against outdoor burning, throwing cigarettes out the window, creating sparks and operating machinery in dry grasses.

Hot and dry weather will remain in place through the weekend, but winds are not expected to be as gusty.

Paving along US Highway 34 near Granby about to begin

The Colorado Department of Transportation and Elam Construction are preparing this week for a resurfacing project US Highway 34 north of Granby.

Preparation will be along US 34 and US Highway 40. Construction crews will begin the surface treatment project the week of July 7.

Work will start on US 34 at Mile Point 0 and will continue for 15 miles. On US 40, the work will take place from Mile Point 210.9 to the intersection of US 34 and US 40.

The project will focus on a 2.5 inch hot mix asphalt overlay and installing guardrails that will meet new safety standard requirements. This will add approximately 10 years of life to the highway, a smoother road surface and will eliminate ruts and road damage CDOT said.

Motorists can expect one-lane alternating traffic, 20 minute delays, reduced speeds and a 10 foot width restriction during hours of operation. The project will be in operation Monday through Thursday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Friday from 7 a.m. to 12 p.m.

The project is expected to last until mid-November.

Denver Water projects to close two roads by Winter Park

Two Denver Water projects will temporarily close segments of Water Board Road and Buck Creek Road starting June 8 and continuing through mid-November.

Construction will be active 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Even when construction is not active, for public safety, the roads will remain closed to all uses at Ranch Creek Canal through the duration of the project.

The Ranch Creek Canal improvements consist primarily of replacing approximately 4,400 feet of open canal above the Lakota Subdivision with an 84-inch buried pipe. The work will also include various connection structures and manholes.

Road closures for the Ranch Creek Canal improvements:

  • The contractor is expected to mobilize in June with construction beginning the first week of July.
  • The segment of Water Board Road from Buck Creek Road up to Rollins Pass Road will be closed to all uses during the project. This includes the road portion directly above the Lakota Subdivision.
  • No access to Water Board Road using Arrow Trail through the Lakota Subdivision will be allowed during the project.
  • Buck Creek Road will be closed to all uses during the project.

The Meadow Creek Pipeline improvements include repairing pipeline leaks and installing new access manholes into the pipeline at six locations on the northern section of Water Board Road.

Intermittent delays on the road will be necessary to complete portions of the project. The contractor will allow for passing vehicles, bicyclists and pedestrians during the construction activities.

Grand on hazardous weather outlook, little accumulation expected

Grand County remains on a hazardous weather outlook through Friday night, though little accumulation is expected.

According to forecasters, light snow will continue through the mountains Friday with wind gusts up to 45 mph. Blowing and drifting snow is possible.

Strong and gusty winds are expected over the mountains Saturday into Monday. A storm may pick up again Wednesday afternoon through Thursday night, but significant accumulations are not expected.

Most parts of the county saw between 1-4 inches of snow in the past 48 hours, due to a New Year’s Day storm. Ice and snow remain a hazard to drivers as always.

Thursday saw a head-on wreck that closed US Highway 40 for 2.5 hours, sending one driver to Middle Park Health in Granby with serious injuries.

Winter Park Resort, which saw 4 inches of snow Thursday, could see another inch in the next 24 hours according to OpenSnow.com meteorologist Joel Gratz. Gratz is also predicting 2-5 inches Sunday through Monday evening on the mountain.

Granby Ranch saw 2 inches of snow Thursday and no accumulation is predicted for the next five days, according to OpenSnow.com. Snowpack remains above average for both resorts.

Access denied: Popular snowmobile trail remains closed

The Grand Lake town trail has not yet opened to snowmobiles, raising ire in the Snowmobile Capital of Colorado.

The trail, officially known as the North Supply Access Trail, connects Grand Lake to a network of snowmobile trails in Arapaho National Forest and makes the town a popular destination for enthusiasts. Rocky Mountain National Park manages a 2 mile section of this trail in the southwest corner of the park.

Residents have expressed growing frustration and posted homemade signs on barriers demanding access to the trail. A letter to Sky-Hi News from Grand Lake resident Ronnie McQuade accused Rocky Mountain of mismanaging this public land, which he said last year opened by Dec. 1.

“People move here and buy vacation homes in the area so they have direct access to the snowmobiling trails and the forest,” McQuade wrote. “But even with good snow, the area is somehow not open.”

Concerns have grown to the level that Town Manager John Crone wrote a memo to citizens on the status of the trail last week. As the trail is maintained by Rocky Mountain, Grand Lake has no control over the operations of the trail, but Crone expressed its importance.

“The town shares your concerns and wants you to know that we are doing everything that we can to ensure that we have access from town to the National Forest trails,” Crone said.

According to Rocky Mountain Public Affairs Officer Kyle Patterson, park staff always wait for a minimum of 24 inches of snowpack before allowing snowmobiles on the trail.

“When there is insufficient snowpack cover of less than 24 inches, the trail is no longer suitable for use by snowmobiles; both with respect to damage on snowmobile equipment and the sustainability of the trail,” Patterson said.

Patterson went on to explain that, while parts of the trail along county roads are in good condition, the first half-mile sees a lot of sun and is generally the last area to reach sufficient snow coverage.

During the holiday season, the trail area’s snowpack has varied from 10-13 inches of actual snow depth, according to Patterson.

Grand Lake Trail Grooming manages the snowmobile trails, including the strip through Rocky Mountain. Trail foreman Cam Stone said the late opening may not be typical, but it’s not unexpected.

“They just haven’t gotten the snow the park needs to get the trail open,” Stone said.

Stone has been grooming Grand Lake trails since 2003. He said the trail generally opens in December, though there have been outlier years like this one. He said the concerns come from people eager to use the trail.

“Even on Thanksgiving, I had people telling me the trail should be open,” Stone said. “It’s pretty popular with a lot of people.”

Another obstacle

Grand Lake has also had some issues with the main road. While snowmobiles are allowed in town, a stretch of Grand Avenue was plowed down to the pavement this week.

In a town where snowmobiles can be as prevalent as cars when the weather allows, the combination of the street plowing and trail closure meant less snowmobile accessibility over the holidays.

According to Public Works Director Keith Everhart, the cold weather in Grand Lake turned the snowpack to ice and threatened the safety of drivers and pedestrians. The dangerous conditions combined with the fact that the town trail has not yet opened contributed to the decision to plow Grand Avenue to Ellsworth Street.

“That’s the reason why we’re trying to think of the public before we think of the snowmobiles,” Everhart said.

The snowpack isn’t only for snowmobiles. The main reason the town keeps a layer is for the insulation it provides to shallow water and sewer lines.

Everhart said further plowing would be determined by what the weather brings: hopefully slightly warmer temperatures and more snow.

“It is not the town’s intention to continue to plow to the pavement,” read an announcement from Grand Lake. “This is a short-term solution.”

Despite the trail closure, the National Forest trails are open to snowmobiles and the higher elevation trails can be accessed directly at the Forest Service trailheads. The latest information on the status of all Grand Lake trails can be found at www.GrandLakeTrailGroomers.com.