Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon is expected to remain closed due to potential structure damage underneath the eastbound lanes.
Westbound lanes are currently blocked from a debris flow.
A structural assessment cannot be completed before crews can cut a channel for displaced Colorado River water to flow away from the interstate, CDOT’s Region 3 Director Mike Goolsby explained. Depending on the extent of damage, eastbound I-70 will remain closed for repairs to ensure it is safe for motorists.
“Last night, one of the debris flows that came out was in the Devil’s Hole drainage, which is basically south of the railroad tracks on the other side of the interstate,” Goolsby said. “This debris flow was quite large. It basically dammed off the river and it found the path of least resistance (next to the interstate surface) when it started to flow again.”
Debris is blocking the Colorado River and is sidled up to the edge of the Interstate 70 deck in Glenwood Canyon and will need to be diverted away from I-70, which will require cutting through the debris field.
Goolsby said I-70 continues to be closed in both directions between Glenwood Springs exit 116 and Dotsero exit 133, with no estimated time of reopening due to expected heavy rainfall forecasts for Friday evening and Saturday.
While a midday alert from Garfield County warned of possible debris coming down the Colorado River, that danger has passed for now, unless additional rains bring even more significant debris down into the riverbed, Goolsby said.
“Based on what’s coming down right now, it’s coming in small pieces; it’s not going to come all at once,” he said.
Multiple debris flows occurred during Thursday’s heavy rainfall event. The National Weather Service in Grand Junction has issued a flash flood watch through midnight Saturday with monsoonal rains likely throughout the western Colorado region throughout the week.
All that and the current state of debris flows mean the one question many people have — an estimated time for reopening — is just not available, Trulove said. CDOT crews, however, continue to work around the clock where it is safe and reasonable to get traffic flowing through the canyon once again.
“One of the things that CDOT’s been doing a fantastic job on is bringing in reinforcements,” she said. “We’ve got crews that have been out there with dump trucks and several loaders and working, you know, the scenario, around the clock.”
Beware navigation apps
While CDOT is actively working with Waze, Google Maps and others to keep traffic off alternate routes that are not suitable for heavy traffic, it is still possible that people will find themselves automatically routed on roads such as Cottonwood Pass, Trulove said.
“On Cottonwood Pass, we’re really only trying to put local traffic through there,” she said. “But people are using it like the interstate, and it’s a safety situation.
“We’ve already seen several rollover accidents occur on that roadway.”
Regional travel impacts
It’s not just the I-70 corridor feeling the effects of Glenwood Canyon’s closure — communities along the northern detour route are seeing significantly more traffic. Goolsby said some of those roads are not meant for the level of use they’re currently experiencing but that CDOT would go in to do repairs where needed.
“We will have to go out and do some additional maintenance and to take care of some of these areas that are beat up pretty bad,” he said.
Peter Baumann can be reached at email@example.com or 970-384-9114. Shannon Marvel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 605-350-8355.