Glenwood Canyon remains closed
Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon remained closed Saturday night going into a sixth straight day Sunday as crews continued with rock cleanup operations following a massive rockslide early last week, Colorado Department of Transportation officials said Saturday evening.
“Bottom line, we understand this is a vital artery for Colorado, and there is a great deal of desire to open the road,” said CDOT Executive Director Shailen Bhatt. “But until it is completely safe, we will not open it.”
Crews continued until dark Saturday working to scale several tons of material from the 1,000-foot slope and were to be back at daylight to continue the operation.
“Even today, our folks brought rocks down that weigh several tons,” Bhatt said. “Our team is more confident that the end is in sight, but safety is paramount, safety for our crews and safety for the traveling public.”
CDOT Region 3 Director Dave Eller said the closure in Glenwood Canyon is the longest for a scaling effort in his 20 years of experience working on the Western Slope.
“The challenge here is that you can only put so many people in the slide zone at a time and proceed safely,” he said.
Eller said crews don’t typically scale rocks as big as those that are coming down in Glenwood Canyon.
“For example, in the last couple of days, we have dislodged four boulders weighing between 5 and 6 tons each,” he said.
Earlier Saturday, crews brought down the vast majority of the larger boulders that we were of concern high in the canyon, said Amy Ford, CDOT communications director.
One 10-foot boulder took out safety fencing, Ford said. Workers then turned to smaller rocks that were in danger of falling.
The 12-mile stretch of canyon east of Glenwood Springs has been closed since the area just west of the Hanging Lake Tunnels was hit by two rockslides Monday, the second of which did extensive damage to the road, particularly the upper, westbound lanes.
Repeating a common refrain from the week, Ford said work continued to ensure that the canyon wall was stable enough to allow traffic on the interstate again.
“We are still dealing with some significant issues up on that shelf, and have several more hours out there on the hill doing work,” Ford said.
Lesser rockfall occurred through the week, including a small slide farther west Thursday morning that knocked out electrical power in No Name. High winds, rain and sleet Thursday slowed work to remove loose rocks that appeared to be in danger of falling.
When the road does reopen, it will be just one eastbound lane. At that point, east and westbound traffic will be led in alternating fashion by pilot cars through a 6-mile zone on a single eastbound lane between the Grizzly Creek Rest Area and the east side of the Hanging Lake Tunnels, where extensive repairs will be under way.
Motorists are discouraged from attempting to wait on either end of the closed area in anticipation of the interstate reopening.
The pilot-car operation is likely to be in place for several days as CDOT crews continue to assess the extent of damage to the elevated westbound lanes and make repairs.
Once the pilot cars are in place, eastbound I-70 traffic will be down to one lane from Exit 116 in Glenwood Springs to the Grizzly Creek Rest Area, where a pilot car will lead traffic for 6 miles through the rockfall area, said CDOT Region 3 spokeswoman Tracy Trulove.
Westbound traffic will go to one lane at the Bair Ranch Rest Area (mile marker 129) and will meet the pilot car just east of the Hanging Lake Tunnels, she said.
Motorists should still expect up to hourlong delays getting through the canyon while the pilot cars are operating, especially during peak times when CDOT sees around 300 vehicles per hour pass through Glenwood Canyon.
After the interstate is reopened to free-flowing traffic, it could still be limited to two-way, head-to-head traffic in the eastbound lanes for a period of time while repairs are being made to the elevated westbound section. Motorists also should expect occasional delays as permanent rockfall-mitigation work continues, CDOT officials have said.
Detours around Glenwood Canyon are as follows:
• A northerly route east from Rifle via state Highway 13 to U.S. 40 from Craig to Steamboat Springs and then either state Highway 131 south to Wolcott or continuing over Rabbit Ears Pass to Highway 9 and on to I-70 at Silverthorne.
• A southern detour via U.S. 50 from Grand Junction to Gunnison and over Monarch Pass to U.S. Routes 24 and 285 on to Denver. Those traveling from the Roaring Fork Valley also can take state Highway 133 over McClure Pass to Delta, connecting to the southern route from there.
For the next few weeks, the Bureau of Land Management is asking for public comment regarding its decision to evaluate its oil and gas program and other management decisions across the state to promote the conservation of big game habitat.
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