HWY 50 Bridge Closure Update


For those of you starting to think about traveling from the West to RMBL and that would normally travel on Highway 50, here are a few notes.

  1. They are working on getting Kebler Pass open early. However, they will be careful about how soon they open it because if they open it too soon, run off will destroy the road. They usually try and have Kebler open by Memorial Day, which is May 27th. My best guess is that it may be open a week or so ahead of that timeframe, so around May 20th.
  2. There are early morning and evening reroutes taking CR 26. The reroutes are for local traffic, but they are loose in terms of how they apply the term local. It adds about 40 minutes to what the route would normally take—less convenient that I-70 if you are coming from the west coast and not necessarily that much faster. They are working to upgrade this reroute and I expect that it may eventually become open to drive at any time, or the hours will be expanded considerably.
  3. If you are coming from the West Coast and are traveling through Grand Junction, depending upon how fast you drive, it adds 1.5-2 hours to take I-70 and then swing down through Leadville, saving another 20-30 minutes once Cottonwood gets open.
  4. There is no timeframe for opening the bridge. I would guess that the bridge will not be fully functional until after summer. There has been some talk of a pontoon bridge to serve as a temporary replacement, but I think that is unlikely.

With few scientists scheduled to arrive before Memorial Day, I don’t think the bridge will create serious problems for scientists traveling to RMBL from the West Coast. However, RMBL’ers could be impacted by secondary effects from the bridge closure. Examples of such secondary effects include:

  1. While the CR 26 reroute and Kelber will become more available for car traffic, neither route is appropriate for commercial/trucks. If you have equipment or supplies that are routed through Montrose, you might want to reconsider where you are getting supplies from. Look to get your supplies from the east and don’t count on suppliers from Montrose, unless an alternate bridge is opened up. If you don’t know where your stuff is coming from, you are probably in good shape. Supply chains will do their own adaptation. So this warning is really just for people that typically buy stuff directly from Montrose/Delta suppliers. There may be weird and inexpicable supply chain issues (more than normal)—e.g., dairy and ice cream have been in short supply in recent weeks.
  2. With increased traffic on Kebler, expect that route to take longer than what you normally plan on, for the entire summer.
  3. With the focus on getting Kebler open early, a Gothic opening could be delayed. We don’t know that a Gothic opening would be delayed, but between the work on the CR 26 reroute and Kebler Pass, the Gothic road is not just a priority. We haven’t seen anything suggested a need for major work on the Gothic road, which really could be delayed. But we will keep people posted.
  4. I would recommend minimizing flying in/out of the Montrose airport. For those that have the Gunnison Airport because of reliability, flights in and out of Gunnison have gotten much more reliable with fewer failed landings because of improved radar. There just haven’t been that many canceled flights in the last year. For those of you that have avoided Gunnison because of costs, bus service (Bustang ) is running daily from CB to Denver, which plans to increase to twice daily trips (though whether that will happen this summer is not clear).

In general, working in Gothic or has never been particularly convenient. Plan on a little more of the same this summer!

You can track what CDOT is saying about the bridge at: US 50 Blue Mesa Bridge Update — Colorado Department of Transportation (codot.gov)

Gunnison County’s link is at: Hwy 50 Bridge Closure | Gunnison County, CO – Official Website

They provide very similar information, but sometimes they have more local info.

And for super local info—to find out the status of Gothic opening in general, check out this link: Gothic Opening Updates – Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory (rmbl.org)

Feel free to reach out to me directly with questions.



Ian Billick