Cottonwood Pass reopens after vehicle recovery; CDOT images show extensive debris on I-70 still

440, 13-ton loads of debris removed from Interstate 70 in Glenwood Canyon over the weekend

Colorado National Guard Specialist Rodriguez closes down Cottonwood Pass for a vehicle recovery around 11:30a.m. on Monday morning.
Chelsea Self/Glenwood Springs Post Independent

UPDATE Monday 12:30 p.m. — Cottonwood Pass has been reopened following a successful vehicle recovery.


UPDATE Monday 11:45 a.m. — Cottonwood Pass between Garfield and Eagle counties is reportedly closed temporarily late Monday morning to allow for a vehicle recovery. Colorado National Guard is now conducting traffic control on the mountain pass. There is no estimated time for reopening the pass, which has restricted access.


Damage to the eastbound lanes of Interstate 70 in Glenwood Canyon near mile point 123 caused by the massive mud and debris flows that occurred on July 29 and 31.
CDOT courtesy photo

Photos released Monday by the Colorado Department of Transportation show a large amount of debris still covering one particular section of Interstate 70 in Glenwood Canyon and damage to the highway surface, giving a glimpse of the likely long road ahead before repairs can be made.

The progress photos are of the area near mile post 123, roughly 2 miles east of Grizzly Creek, where the largest of debris flows occurred the nights of July 29 and 31, including damage caused to the roadway and the barrier wall in that location.

I-70 through the canyon remains closed indefinitely due the amount of debris still on the roadway and damaged caused by some of the largest slides.

CDOT provided an update Monday, saying good weather over the weekend allowed crews to work without interruption on clearing mud and other debris from I-70 in Glenwood Canyon.

“CDOT crews were able to make significant progress … hauling 440 loads over the two days,” CDOT said in a news release. “Each truck load equals 13 tons of material.”

There were no official weather watches over the weekend from NOAA and there was no precipitation at the burn scar or in the canyon, as dry weather takes hold again.

The interstate clean-up effort included 204 loads hauled on Sunday to the CDOT dump sites at No Name (MP 119) and Dotsero (MP 133). Another dump site is located along a frontage road section of Colorado Highway 82 across from Aspen Glen.

“On the east side of Glenwood Canyon (from Hanging Lake Tunnel to the Bair Ranch area), crews continued to work on loading trucks,” CDOT said in the release. Another 110 loads were removed from that side of the canyon on Sunday.

“Crews cleared the remainder of the debris from the eastbound lanes at MP 124.3, which is an important area to assess in order to determine what is required to safely reopen I-70.”

“Work will resume (Tuesday) with crews cleaning drainages and drop drains, and washing roadways,” CDOT said. “The priority will be to continue to clean up all the slides from Hanging Lake Tunnel to Bair Ranch on the eastbound lanes, where there is still a lot of debris.”

On the west side of Glenwood Canyon closest to Glenwood Springs, 94 loads were hauled on Sunday.

“Crews were able to completely uncover the remainder of the debris at the washed out area at MP 123.5 (Blue Gulch) eastbound, so that the CDOT inspections and CDOT engineering teams can get a better assessment of the damage,” CDOT said of the area depicted in the photos. “This is one of the most critical areas for the inspection/engineering team to inspect the potential damage now that the debris is cleared in order for visual inspection to occur.”

The impacted area on the eastbound side measures approximately 120 feet wide on the north side/passing lane and narrows up to approximately 70 feet on the south side/driving lane, according to the release.

“Crews will continue to excavate the debris mud out to original grade/solid ground Monday,” CDOT explained. “Eastbound lanes have been cleared all the way to the MP 123.5 with rocks cleaned off. Also on the west side of the canyon, crews were able to remove a large boulder.”

Priorities for Monday include continued cleanup at MP 123.5. Smaller areas still need to be cleaned both eastbound and westbound in that stretch, and all of eastbound from Hanging Lake Tunnel to Bair Ranch.

“The engineering team will be conducting inspections, with better access now that crews have been able to remove more debris,” the release states.

I-70 continues to be closed to through traffic at Exit 87 (West Rifle, with a local traffic bypass on Highway 6). The detour takes through traffic up Colorado Highway 13 to U.S. 40 at Craig headed east to Colorado Highway 9 south to I-70 at Silverthorne. Traffic control at the diversion points is now be run by a contractor, CDOT said.

CDOT and contractor crews are jointly managing Exit 116 in Glenwood Springs, and CDOT is still manning both sides of Colorado Highway 82 over Independence Pass until a contractor can mobilize more flaggers.