One-hour delays experienced in Glenwood Canyon on Monday morning
Motorists traveling Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon should count on at least an hour delay while traffic is restricted to one lane because of repairs to damage from a rockslide and related safety measures.
The wait was 51 minutes while trying to make it through the canyon after leaving Glenwood Springs at about 6:30 a.m. Monday. The delay was 82 minutes while traveling west in the canyon at about 9 a.m. The longer wait was due to a greater number of vehicles trying to get through before the roadway was closed and the detour was mandatory.
Colorado Department of Transportation’s estimate that motorists should factor in at least an extra hour to travel Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon proved to be spot-on, at least in the morning. Roaring Fork Valley residents reported delays of up to six hours while traveling westbound Monday night.
I was forced to make the trips Monday because I had to report to jury duty in Eagle. The trip from El Jebel to the Eagle County Courthouse in Eagle typically takes 55 minutes when going the speed limit. The trip was just shy of two hours Monday.
The transportation department had one lane of the eastbound lanes open for travel. Traffic alternated using the lane, guided by a pilot car. After leaving El Jebel at 6 a.m., I sailed through Glenwood Springs and the first section of the canyon before getting stopped at 6:30 a.m. at mile marker 120, about 5 miles east of Glenwood. Eastbound traffic was at a standstill for 25 minutes as westbound traffic used the single lane.
Eastbound traffic began moving at 6:55 a.m., and then came to another stop until 7:21 a.m.
Once moving, traffic flowed faster than the 25 mph posted speed limit and made it past the end of the bottleneck at mile marker 126 by 7:34 a.m.
The total wait in the canyon was 51 minutes. Traffic was at a standstill for most of the time rather than moving at a stop-and-go pace.
The trip back involved a bit of a gamble and good fortune. A judge dismissed the jury pool at 8:40 a.m., but the interstate was scheduled to close at 9 a.m. I decided to try to hook onto the end of the waiting line of vehicles rather than take the lengthy detour to Wolcott and Rifle, or wait for the interstate to reopen at 4 p.m. Traffic east of Eagle was already being warned that the interstate was closing, so westbound traffic was almost non-existent when I left Eagle. Sign crews were preparing to close off Interstate 70 but there was no physical barrier at Gypsum or Dotsero as 9 a.m. rolled closer. I was one of the last vehicles to enter the waiting line of westbound traffic. I counted eight vehicles behind me.
Although the interstate was closed to additional traffic right around 9 a.m., the transportation department let all the stacked vehicles eventually proceed rather than make them wait until 4 p.m. The westbound traffic was at a standstill from about 9:15 a.m. until 10:37 a.m. while eastbound traffic was released. Westbound motorists who arrived earlier than me waited longer than 82 minutes.
Officials with the transportation department said Sunday that pilot cars will guide alternating traffic through Glenwood Canyon for an undetermined number of days, with the interstate closing from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The closure is needed to provide a safe time for crews to remove rocks that fell and perform additional rockfall mitigation on the steep cliffs overhanging the roadway.
A few large boulders, the size of VW Bugs, remain in the right eastbound lane. More impressive was the damage to the concrete decking, barrier and guardrail on the overhanging westbound lanes. Metal guardrails were twisted like pretzels in places, and the falling bounders left crushed concrete in their wake.
The transportation department posts updates to the canyon situation at http://cotrip.org/home.htm.
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