The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has announced the selection of a plan to upgrade Guanella Pass Road in Colorado. The action is in the project's final environmental impact statement released by the FHWA to the public today.
FHWA Administrator Mary Peters characterized the project as an ideal example of a transportation project development philosophy called context-sensitive design. Context-sensitive design is intended to provide a safe, efficient transportation system that is sensitive to the human and natural environment.
The road, which extends about 23 miles from Georgetown in Clear Creek County south to Grant in Park County, Colo., was built in the 1950s and is in need of upgrading. Through more than 11 years of environmental and engineering analysis, reconnaissance and scoping reports, numerous public meetings and one-on-one meetings with major stakeholders, FHWA developed six alternatives, including a no-build option, for the road. After extensive consultation with local residents, businesses and elected officials, FHWA identified Alternative 6 as its preferred alternative.
FHWA said the option minimized full reconstruction yet improves safety, enhances the environment and reduces maintenance, all in support of the purpose and need of the project. FHWA has reduced the design of the road to the greater extent possible so that the road closely follows the existing road and the impact on previously undisturbed areas is minimized. Also, FHWA would construct a 7th Street Bridge in Georgetown to minimize the impact that construction traffic would have on local traffic and businesses in the Georgetown area. The agency also will develop construction schedules to accommodate businesses along Guanella Pass Road.
Under the preferred alternative, about 63% of the roadway improvements will consist of rehabilitation, which means most work would remain within the existing roadway. About 18% of the project would involve light reconstruction, where work would remain within previously distributed areas of the existing roadway, and about 19% will include full reconstruction, where work would extend outside the existing roadway.
Under federal law, FHWA cannot issue its final decision, called a record of decision, any earlier than 30 days after publication of the FEIS. However, because of public interest in this project FHWA has extended this period an additional 30 days. If significant concerns are raised or new ideas or issues presented, the FHWA will take them under consideration as part of the public involvement process.