Rock punches hole in interstate |

Rock punches hole in interstate

Bobby MagillGlenwood Springs correspondent
A rockslide knocked out part of the guardrail and closed the right lane of eastbound Interstate 70 in Glenwood Canyon near the Hanging Lake exit Sunday. (Kara K. Pearson/Post Independent)

An eastbound lane of Interstate 70 remains closed through part of Glenwood Canyon after a boulder punched a hole in it Sunday.A number of 2-ton boulders fell onto the interstate just west of the Hanging Lake Tunnel on Sunday morning, closing one lane in each direction for several hours. The rocks blocking westbound traffic were removed quickly and the damage there was minimal, said Colorado Department of Transportation spokeswoman Nancy Shanks.

One larger rock landed on the outer eastbound lane, punching a hole measuring 4 feet long and 3 feet wide completely through the bridge deck. The boulder bounced into the Colorado River below the freeway. There were no injuries in the rock slide, and no vehicles were damaged. The outer eastbound lane is closed until the hole is repaired; all other lanes are open to traffic. Sunday’s rockslide was several hundred yards west of the site of the much larger slide on Thanksgiving 2004, which closed the entire freeway for more than a day, Shanks said.

“This one’s a tenth of the scale” of the 2004 slide, said Joe Elsen, a CDOT program engineer based in Glenwood Springs. Shanks said CDOT officials were working on a repair design Monday, but because it was a holiday, the plan could not be approved and money appropriated until at least today. Approximately 20 yards of concrete barrier and steel bridge railing need to be repaired, in addition to the bridge deck, she said. The repair will cost between $75,000 and $100,000. CDOT will request the funds from the Transportation Commission Contingency Fund, which makes money available for emergency highway repairs.

Shanks said the repairs could take a month or longer, depending on how long it takes CDOT to secure a contractor. If the state determines the highway damage isn’t extensive enough for an emergency repairs, however, the lane could remain closed for an extended period.Shanks said CDOT does all it can to prevent rock slides on state roadways, but they are a fact of life in Colorado. “These are the Rocky Mountains, and we are going to experience rockfall in this area,” she said.

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