Published on February 25, 2014
Rollins Pass Road: Public Input Boulder County Public Hearing February 13, 2014
Purpose of Hearing • Request by Gilpin and Grand Counties to open road based on language included in Public Law 107-216 – the James Peak Wilderness and Protection Area Act. • Boulder County Commissioners have expressed concerns about opening the Rollins Pass Road including • The difficulty and expense in making the road and tunnel safe • Liability for injury resulting in use of the road and/or tunnel • Protection of the fragile high alpine ecosystem in the area • The purpose of today’s hearing is to gather public input on this request
Background • Commissioners and staff have had meetings with representatives from Grand and Gilpin Counties and the USFS over the past decade to discuss the opening of the Rollins Pass Road and the Needle’s Eye Tunnel to vehicular traffic. • Several Boards of Commissioners have expressed concerns over the environmental and financial impacts of opening this road. • The safety of the roadway and tunnel and any liability associated with injury from their use. • Costs associated with the necessary environmental assessment, road and tunnel reconstruction, and ongoing maintenance. • Impact of the road and increased vehicular access to fragile high alpine Wilderness areas.
History • Moffat Railroad through Boulder and Gilpin Counties to Grand County was opened in 1904 and this “Hill Route” was used for more than 20 years until the Moffat Tunnel was opened • Railroad traversed trestles, a tunnel and a pass and was abandoned in 1935 • Needle’s Eye Tunnel was closed by a rockslide in 1979, reopened in 1988 and closed again in 1990 after an interior rock fall • The James Peak Wilderness and Protection Area Act included language requiring the USFS to provide technical assistance with respect to repairing Rollins Pass Road
Current Status • Rollins Pass Road (117J) is currently closed at Needle’s Eye Tunnel • Bicycle, Motorcycle and Four-wheel drive vehicles currently circumvent closure over top of tunnel • “No Motorized Access across Continental Divide” • Current road leading up to pass is narrow, two-track with minimal improvement • Trestles are deteriorating
South Portal Needle’s Eye Tunnel (note bicycle and pedestrian bypass over tunnel)
North Portal Needle’s Eye Tunnel
Interior of Needle’s Eye Tunnel looking north
Deterioration of Rollins Pass Road embankment support
Deterioration of Rollins Pass Road trestle structures
Layout / Topography • All properties surrounding road in Boulder County are US Forest Service Ownership • Rollins Pass Road was declared a county road by long usage in 1959 • Only courts can declare it public • Forest Service maintains the road is under their jurisdiction • Road is mostly “two-track” on natural grade; minimal improvement • Many additional tracks have been created over the years
From US Forest Service Motor Vehicle Use Map, Jan. 1, 2010 - Shows boundary of James Peak Wilderness Area and status of Rollins Pass Road according to USFS - No road shown from Tunnel to road across Divide
Note Wagon Road and other off-road paths
Boulder County Maintenance of Existing Road • Limits of Maintenance: 1.3 miles within Boulder County east of the Needle’s Eye Tunnel; no maintenance in Gilpin or Grand Counties • Covered under Schedule “A” with Forest Service • Boulder County expends approximately $800-$1,000 per year to maintain the road to minimal travel requirements; no snow removal is performed
Boulder County Road Map, 2013, showing limits of road within Boulder County
Costs to Improve Road • Open Needle’s Eye Tunnel: • Deere and Ault Study (Jan., 2013) • Boulder County did not participate in this study • P. 3 – “[the study] confirmed the previous evaluations that the tunnel was not stable with the existing support.” • Two methods of repair suggested (p. 5): • Significant rock bolting with wire mesh and small amounts of shotcrete ($535,000) • Smaller bolting effort with shotcrete lining of entire tunnel ($610,000) • D & A Recommended repairs to be made: option 2 – shotcrete lining
Deere and Ault Repair Option 1
Deere and Ault Repair Option 2
Costs to Improve Road (cont’d.) • Improve Rollins Pass Road: • USFS Report (Dec., 2013) • Definition of “Level 3” Road: “Assigned to roads open and maintained for travel by a prudent driver in a standard passenger car. User comfort and convenience are not considered priorities.” • Low speed, single lane • Three counties need to agree to alignment and construction • FS will not issue easement to a county outside their jurisdiction • Cost: • Bringing road up to “level 3”: $3,240,000 • Repair and restore trestles: $6,300,000 • Includes closure and restoration of bypass roads
Boulder County Concerns • Safety and impact of a roadway in this area • Current Wagon Road is not safely passable by passenger vehicles • Trestle is unsafe/unusable – requires structural stabilization • Work to bring Rollins Pass Road up to safe standard in original alignment is not possible, a new alignment would be required to meet the USFS road standards • Realignment of Rollins Pass Road to be more passable/usable would have a great and lasting impact on this area
Boulder County Concerns • Costs Associated with opening this roadway • Liability for injury • USFS estimate for required environmental review would be approximately $1 million • Preliminary costs associated with roadway and trestle replacement is more than $9.5 million • Increased on-going maintenance costs • Additional use of area requires continual management and enforcement to protect the adjacent wilderness areas
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