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Guanella Pass Reopens In Time For Summer

GEORGETOWN, Colo. (CBS4)- Just in time for summer sightseeing one of Colorado's most scenic roads has reopened after years of construction.

The road over Guanella Pass heads south from Georgetown to a peak of nearly 12,000 feet. The pass connects Georgetown on I-70 to the town of Grants on Highway 285.

Now the road has $60 million in improvements to show off. Some of the money was used to resurface and pave the road, which was completely dirt.

"We've been working on the construction aspect for over three years but it has been a progress in action many years prior to that," said Georgetown Mayor Kerry Ann McHugh.

The pass has an interesting history dating back decades in Colorado's High Country. Byron Guanella started working on the pass in the 1940s. On Friday, his daughters were on hand to reopen the road.

"He started looking at it and walking it many, many times trying to find a good alignment," said pass builder's daughter Sally Buckland.

The road opened in 1953 and it's something the Guanella kids never forgot about.

(credit: CBS)

"Dad loved that road so much he'd be up there before we were even out of bed," said pass builder's daughter Glenda Guanella. "To open the road, keep it open and in good condition so anybody using it would be safe and it would be passable."

As the years of wear and tear took a toll on the road, it finally had to have parts closed down in 2009 because of dangerous rockfall and mudslide potential to Georgetown and other dangers.

"Some very precarious drainage and safety issues. We've had RVs fall off Guanella Pass," said McHugh.

Now new guardrails are in place and new retaining walls. The Mayor of Georgetown hopes it will open up the area to more tourism.

"Having Guanella Pass open means the world to our town. Having trails open and the ability to get there on a paved road is phenomenal, absolutely phenomenal," said McHugh.

The rebuilding of the pass made international news which allowed distant relatives in Italy to connect with Sally and Glenda Guanella. They've reconnected and were able to see a relative canonized as a saint last year.

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