Crews to break up unstable rock still perched above I-70 |

Crews to break up unstable rock still perched above I-70

Aspen Times staff report
Aspen, CO Colorado
An explosion breaks up a boulder on Interstate 70 near Glenwood Springs, Colo. after an overnight fall deposited large rocks and smashed through the bridge, closing a 17-mile stretch of the road. (AP Photo/The Denver Post, Joe Amon) ** MANDATORY CREDIT; MAGS OUT; TV OUT **

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – A helicopter is on scene in Glenwood Canyon, where crews plan to break apart a large boulder that threatens to fall down on Interstate 70, according to a Wednesday morning update from the Colorado Department of Transportation.

The roadway has been closed since Sunday night, when a large rock slide littered the interstate with boulders, punched holes in the pavement and caused structural damage.

The helicopter will be used to drop off drilling equipment and a generator for Wednesday’s planned operations. A crew hopes to bring down the unstable boulder, estimated at roughly 20 feet in diameter, sometime in the early afternoon, according to CDOT. Then, the hillside will be stabilized and any additional damage to the highway that results from bringing down the boulder will be assessed, allowing CDOT to estimate when it might be able to reopen some part of the interstate.

On Tuesday, a team of six hiked up the mountainside some 900 feet to remove loose rock with pry bars and other equipment until about 5:30 p.m., according to CDOT. The team reached the unstable rock that needs to come down and, losing daylight, attempted to pry sections loose and locate areas in which to effectively place and charge explosives, but were unable to do so.

They were to hike up to the rock again Wednesday to resume the operation. Workers will break the boulder apart with compressor-powered drills hauled to the site by the helicopter. Blasting is also a possibility, CDOT said.

CDOT is hoping the rock can be knocked down without causing additional, major damage to the highway. Crews will then begin repairs with the goal of getting the eastbound lanes reopened, allowing one lane of travel in each direction. The westbound lanes suffered the more serious damage, including two large, gaping holes in an elevated section, just west of the Hanging Lake Tunnel.

Crews on Monday began blasting apart the boulders that came at about midnight on Sunday, breaking them into smaller pieces that could be hauled away.

Since the slide occurred, Colorado’s main east-west mountain thoroughfare has been closed between Gypsum and Glenwood Springs, forcing motorists to take a roughly 200-mile detour around the canyon on a loop through northwest Colorado.

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