BREAKING: I-70 eastbound open after rockslide closure |

I-70 eastbound open through Glenwood Canyon, westbound limited to one lane

Interstate 70 in Glenwood Canyon was finally reopened in both directions late Tuesday, after a day of cleanup and safety measures following an early morning rockslide near Grizzly Creek.

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.

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. There were no injuries reported in the incident, Trulove said.

CDOT kept the westbound lanes closed into the night Tuesday, diverting traffic on 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 Tuesday, 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 on Feb. 15, 2016 shut down the interstate for about a week and also caused lengthy detours north via U.S. 40 and south along U.S. 50. The canyon was open to one lane only in both directions after six days, but 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.
During Tuesday’s event, around 200-250 cubic yards of debris fell onto the upper deck of the I-70, Trulove said. Most eastbound traffic Tuesday morning was being diverted to Highway 13 from Rifle, then through Steamboat Springs via U.S. 40. The same route was being used westbound from Wolcott. Colorado State Patrol advised early on that Independence Pass on State Highway 82 and the back road headed over Cottonwood Pass are closed for the winter, and were not an option during the closure. There was also a chain advisory on Highway 133 over McClure pass and other area highways.

Detour map shared by Colorado State Patrol Troop 4C Twitter page.

Complicating matters was a forecast of bad weather in the northwestern part of the state. “It’s going to be slow going,” Trulove said during a midday telephone news conference. “We know that’s not the best-case scenario when you’re trying to get somewhere, but we encourage people to be patient and take it slow.” Rainfall and fluctuating temperatures increase the risk of rockslides, particularly in the canyon section west of the Hanging Lake Tunnel. The incident Tuesday also delayed delivery of the Glenwood Springs Post Independent and Aspen Times newspapers until late morning.

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