No word on when I-70 could re-open |

No word on when I-70 could re-open

John Gardner
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
Joe Amon/The Denver Post/APA damaged bridge is seen on Interstate 70 near Glenwood Springs after Sunday night's rock slide.

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon remains closed to traffic, and Colorado Department of Transportation officials are unsure about when the stretch of road will re-open.

Geologists on Tuesday examined the stability of a 20-foot diameter rock that hangs above the damaged section of I-70.

According to CDOT spokeswoman Nancy Shanks, crews were formulating a plan of attack Tuesday night on how to bring down the boulder without causing more damage to the road surface. She said that bringing the boulder down would likely be the focus Wednesday, and that CDOT didn’t want to guess as to how soon a traffic lane could be opened.

“Not until this rock comes down,” Shanks said. “Now, that it’s all been scaled above, I would guess that their efforts would be on this boulder.”

The interstate has been closed in both directions through Glenwood Canyon since about midnight Sunday after about 20 boulders, ranging in size from 3 to 20 feet, crashed down and punched holes along the elevated section of road. The largest boulder weighed an estimated 66 tons, according to CDOT engineers.

Crews hiked 900 feet up the canyon early Tuesday morning and began rock mitigation work on the area above the damaged section of I-70, Shanks said. The crew cleared loose rocks above the boulder of concern, and reached the large boulder at about 4:30 p.m. At that point it was too late in the day to continue.

Shanks said crews want to make sure that they can bring down the boulder without causing more damage to the road surface, which could further delay the re-opening.

“That would just set us back,” Shanks said.

It took crews less than two days to reopen the highway after the 2004 Thanksgiving Day rock fall closed I-70 in the same area. However, repairs took two months to complete at a cost of as much as $1.6 million, according to CDOT reports.

CDOT program engineer Joe Elsen estimated Monday that repairs this time could cost as much as $2 million. CDOT met with at least two contractors Tuesday to view the scope of repairs. Elsen said Monday that CDOT would operate under emergency contract instructions in order to get a contractor signed on to begin repairs as quickly as possible. And, he was hopeful that the department would have a contractor by the end of the week.

Two large holes, the largest measuring 10 feet by 20 feet, and at least a dozen smaller holes will need to be repaired. Also in need of repair are at least one of five steel support girders that were damaged by one of the falling boulders, about 120 feet of steel guard rail, about 100 feet of concrete median barrier, and two sections of precast retaining wall on the westbound lanes.

Gov. Bill Ritter declared the 17-mile stretch of I-70 through Glenwood Canyon a disaster emergency Monday. The declaration will allow the state to seek funding from the Federal Highway Administration to help pay for repairs.

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