WB I-70 now open west of Glenwood following lengthy closure due to mudslide
State highway crews were able to open Interstate 70 west of Glenwood Springs just after 2 a.m. on Saturday, after two significant mudslides closed the interstate between Glenwood Springs and Wolcott.
According to the Colorado Department of Transportation, the mudslides occurred around 1:30 p.m. Friday about five miles west of Glenwood Springs in South Canyon as a result of heavy rains.
As of Saturday morning, the westbound right lane remains closed in the area so that crews can continue clearing any additional mud and debris.
“Cleanup is expected to continue for much of Saturday, and perhaps through the weekend,” according to a CDOT news release issued Saturday morning. “Travelers are urged to slow down for the reduced speed of 45 mph and watch for crews, as well as heavy equipment.”
CDOT maintenance personnel reported that one mudslide covered approximately 200 feet of highway, while the second slide covered more than 1,000 feet of roadway.
“Some areas of the slide measured 3 feet deep,” according to the release. “The center lane concrete barrier helped contain the slides to the westbound lanes.”
A total of 25 CDOT personnel were on the scene into the night for traffic control and clean-up operations. Equipment included two loaders, two plows, a highway broom and four pumps that were used to clear the wet, heavy mud from the interstate.
I-70 west of Glenwood Springs was closed into the night Friday following an afternoon mudslide near South Canyon that trapped a handful of vehicles for a period of time and stranded motorists heading in both directions.
Late Friday, the Colorado Department of Transportation was advising against any travel at all on westbound I-70 between Wolcott and the closed area. The Colorado State Patrol was limiting access to local traffic only.
The broader closure was put in place to aid in the cleanup of the mudslide that occurred between 1:30 and 2:30 p.m. Friday during an isolated heavy rainstorm north of the interstate on Storm King Mountain west of Glenwood.
Mud and debris, including rocks, flowed down one of the chutes coming off the mountainside, completely flooding the westbound lanes as the mud was trapped between the highway barriers.
Several vehicles were initially stuck in the mud and unable to move, but were eventually removed. No injuries were reported by authorities.
During the closure, the Colorado Department of Transportation was directing motorists to seek alternate routes via southern or northern highways — state Highway 131 to U.S. 40 and state Highway 13 to Rifle, or to the south along U.S. 285 or U.S. 24 to U.S. 50 all the way to Grand Junction.
Travel to the south was also limited Friday on state Highway 133 from Carbondale to Paonia due to a rock slide near Paonia Reservoir. As of 10 p.m. Friday, CDOT was reporting that traffic was alternating on one lane along that route.
The road closures kept motorists stranded in Glenwood Springs or lined up on state Highways 82 and 133 attempting alternate routes toward Grand Junction during the busy Mountain Fair weekend in Carbondale.
The Garfield County Sheriff’s Office advised just before 8 p.m. that I-70 west of Glenwood Springs was to remain closed in both directions for another four to eight hours.
“When it does re-open, it is anticipated that only one lane will be open,” the sheriff’s press release said.
Motorists were being warned against trying to go up the Four Mile Road out of Glenwood Springs and using Forest Service Road 800 past Sunlight to get around the slide area.
“This is not a viable alternative route, especially when the road is wet,” the Sheriff’s Office advised. “Travelers could find themselves stuck in the back country with little or no cell reception available.”
The Sheriff’s release indicated that CDOT and Colorado State Patrol were “working diligently to resolve this issue and expedite your travels with the primary goal of keeping everyone safe.”
Earlier in the day, I-70 west was closed at exit 133 at Dotsero in order to prevent all but local traffic from proceeding to Glenwood Springs.
CDOT was working on draining water from the westbound lanes to the eastbound lanes through a series of drainage pipes.
“Once the water is drained, CDOT will then start working on clearing mud and debris from the roadway,” said CDOT spokesperson Breanna Rogers.
She said the department had hoped to have one westbound lane open to relieve traffic buildup, but that wasn’t immediately possible.
According to Colorado State Patrol Trooper Gary Cutler, a “mudslide with rocks in it” occurred near mile marker 110 westbound along I-70 at around 2:25 p.m. Friday.
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Former Carbondale trustee Katrina Byars said she wants to bring a voice of environmental sustainability to the commission, and believes her opponent has served long enough.