Dynamite! Traffic rolls again on I-70 in Glenwood Canyon
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon reopened about 3 p.m. Thursday after a rock slide closed the road late Sunday night.
Traffic remains limited to one lane in each direction, with a 14-foot width restriction and 40 mph speed limit through the damaged section of canyon for the duration of repairs.
Lane closures will be in effect starting at mile marker 124.5, west of the Hanging Lake Tunnel to about mile marker 126, east of the tunnel, according to Colorado Department of Transportation spokeswoman Nancy Shanks.
About 20 boulders, the largest roughly the size of a tractor-trailer, punched about a dozen holes in the road surface. The rock slide caused a 20-foot-by-10-foot hole in the westbound lanes, and another 6-foot-by-6-foot hole in the eastbound lanes, and also damaged a steel support girder, sections of the guardrail, median barricade and pre-cast retaining walls.
The rock fall closed the entire 17-mile section of I-70 through Glenwood Canyon for more than three days, causing traffic to detour roughly 200 miles north through Steamboat Springs.
CDOT crews cleared rock debris from the lanes that was brought down by Wednesday’s mitigation work, in which a large boulder above the fall area was removed. The blast brought down about a dozen larger boulders, and many smaller rocks.
Gov. Bill Ritter declared the canyon an emergency disaster Monday evening, allowing the state to seek federal funding to help cover repair costs. The repair work will be covered out of CDOT’s contingency fund; the agency could then be reimbursed by the Federal Highway Department.
Federal Highway Department personnel were on scene Thursday, assessing the damage. CDOT has applied for federal emergency relief funds, and Shanks said that they are hoping to be reimbursed for at least a portion of repair costs.
“We’ll be able to give more information on where we are at on federal funding when we have a contractor on board,” Shanks said.
Contractors inspected the damage Tuesday and are expected to return bids for the repair work Friday, according to Shanks. Work will begin immediately after a bid is awarded, but Shanks did not know specifically when that would be. A CDOT press release indicated repair plan information would be released Friday afternoon.
Repair costs are expected to be as much as $2 million, according to CDOT Program Engineer Joe Elsen. Repairs after a rock slide on Thanksgiving Day in 2004 took two months to complete.
Crews set up traffic control cones, barrels and signs on the interstate Wednesday so the highway could open quickly when debris was cleared.
Delays are expected at first, but “shouldn’t be a big deal,” Shanks said.
The opening was welcome news for Gypsum resident Syra Morley, who works at Mountain Valley Developmental Services in Glenwood Springs. She attempted to make the long detour through Steamboat Springs Wednesday, just to get to work, but turned around because of adverse weather.
“I chickened out,” she said. “I decided that it was going to make for a really long day and night.”
Morley was just one of numerous residents and travelers affected by the closure. She said that even though the canyon was reopened Thursday, it was going to be a little unsettling driving through it after seeing the photos of the large boulders that came crashing down.
“I am thinking about testing it out Friday,” Morley said. “But it’s still nerve-racking.”
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