I-70 reopens in both directions through Glenwood Canyon after rockslide

Two eastbound lanes open; only one westbound lane open after damage

Thomas Phippen
Glenwood Springs Post Independent
Large boulders and rocks are piled on the shoulder of I-70 near Grizzly Creek in Glenwood Canyon after an early morning rockslide closed the interstate through Glenwood Canyon on Tuesday.
Chelsea Self/ Glenwood Springs Post Independent

Interstate 70 in Glenwood Canyon reopened in both directions late Tuesday night after a day of cleanup and safety measures following an early-morning rockslide.

I-70 was closed through Glenwood Canyon most of Tuesday after hundreds of cubic yards of rock fell on the upper westbound deck, Colorado Department of Transportation spokeswoman Tracy Trulove said.

The eastbound lanes were undamaged and were opened briefly Tuesday afternoon to allow traffic through, then closed again for a short time later in the afternoon to let crews install a crane to assist the scaling operations. Both lanes reopened in full just before 6:30 p.m.

One car traveling eastbound around the time of the 1 a.m. rockslide sustained a flat tire, which went unreported because of a shift change, Trulove said. Otherwise, there were no cars involved and no injuries in that incident, she said.

CDOT reopened one westbound lanes at 9 p.m. Tuesday. Before that opening, CDOT was diverting traffic on a 3.5-hour detour through Steamboat Springs and Craig via U.S. 40 and State Highways 131 and 13 to reconnect with I-70 in Rifle.

Crews spent the last remaining hours of daylight scaling the rock face that shed what amounts to at least 25 truckloads of rock and debris just west of the Grizzly Creek Rest Area.

Most of the boulders were cleared from the road, which sustained some surface damage, Trulove said.

Three or four impact craters have been patched, which will need to be repaired over the next several days, she said. The internal structure of the elevated highway deck was undamaged.

The rockslide also damaged 40 feet of parapet wall on the outer edge of the deck, and 100 feet of bridge wall. Those guardrails will have a temporary fix. The fallen debris has been pushed behind the barrier, and will need to be removed. Some of the bigger boulders will have to be broken up.

It was unclear Tuesday night when both westbound lanes would be reopened.

“We’ll probably be looking at two to three weeks for repairs, but that’s not to say we won’t be able to get to two lanes (westbound)a little sooner than that,” Trulove said.

Trulove said maintenance crews for the northwestern Colorado region were in “surge status” to keep detour routes through Steamboat Springs, Craig and Rifle on Highway 13 clear during the winter storm warnings.

Rainfall and fluctuating temperatures increased the risk of more rockslides, particularly in the canyon section west of the Hanging Lake Tunnel.

A major rockslide Feb. 15, 2016, shut down the interstate for nearly a week and caused lengthy detours north via U.S. 40 and south along U.S. 50.

After that incident, the canyon was open to one lane only in both directions after six days, using a pilot car to guide traffic in alternating fashion for several weeks. I-70 through the canyon was not fully reopened until the middle of April that year, after some $5 million in emergency repairs.