Construction to return to Taylor Canyon in May
Written by Alissa Johnson   
Wednesday, 06 March 2013
Traffic will be redirected over Jack’s Cabin cutoff

Road construction is poised to return to Taylor Canyon this summer. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is getting ready to complete the final phase of repaving between Harmel’s and Almont. Gunnison County expected the project to be completed in 2015 or 2016, but construction is now projected to start in May with two separate road closures and a reroute over Jack’s Cabin cutoff.

 

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According to county public works director Marlene Crosby, the remaining stretch of Taylor Canyon has been third in priority for the FHWA, behind two projects in Park County. But due to a new requirement that Colorado counties match 17.21 percent of the project cost, one Park County project was postponed and a phase of the other was not ready to bid out. Taylor Park advanced up the list.
“Our project is ready, and so are we,” Crosby said in a memo to the Gunnison Board of County Commissioners. All but one easement is in place, and utilities have been scoped and identified. The match, projected at $1,861,175, can be paid over two years and there are opportunities to reduce it to $1,630,622 by enacting road closures that will make construction more efficient.
At a meeting on March 5, Crosby walked the commissioners through plans to close the road in two separate locations: from the post office to the edge of the Dunbar residential properties, and from the other side of the Dunbar properties to a point just shy of Jack’s Cabin cutoff.
 The closures will not take place at the same time, and the residential community members will be allowed to drive in and out of their properties.
All other traffic will be rerouted over the Jack’s Cabin Cutoff, extending travel time by an estimated five minutes and requiring an increase in maintenance to that road.
But the closures are more than worth it to Crosby, who said they will make it possible to finish the project in only one season and save the county from coming up with an additional $230,553 for the match. With that reduction, it’s possible to find the funds.
Crosby has worked with the county finance department to identify several sources of funding, including $600,000 from the road and bridge department, $75,000 by holding off on plans to realign the S curves at the top of Cottonwood Pass, and $95,000 by delaying plans to widen the bridge over the Slate River between Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte on Highway 135.
County manager Matthew Birnie emphasized that delaying these projects would not put off critical projects. “We’re just reprioritizing to focus on Taylor,” he said.
The commissioners supported the project, passing a resolution that will allow for the road closures. In terms of what this means for drivers heading to Taylor Canyon, Crosby assured the commissioners that she and county staff are working to avoid long delays for drivers when they reach the Taylor River road at the bottom of Jack’s Cabin Cutoff.
“We don’t want to encourage drivers to go over Jack’s Cabin, use that as a detour and they get down there and get sacked for 45 minutes, so that would be part of the contract documents,” Crosby said.
Unless any unforeseen circumstances arise, construction should begin in late May.