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Glenwood Canyon construction milestones mean project is right on track

Traffic makes its way east and west on I-70 just before the No Name Tunnels.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Travelers driving through Glenwood Canyon construction can breathe a sigh of relief: head-to-head traffic on Interstate 70 is no longer in place Friday afternoons through Sunday.

Rather than sharing one side of the highway, traffic will have access to one lane on both east and westbound routes.

The change starts today for the $15.7 million project, which incorporates state-of-the-art road surface materials, bridge revitalization and rest area ADA accessibility upgrades. Head-to-head traffic will be in place Mondays through 1 p.m. Fridays. This comes a week after the Grizzly Creek and Shoshone turnouts reopened to motorists heading west toward Glenwood Springs without detouring further east.

One unique challenge this year is keeping projects moving forward while minimizing the spread of COVID-19. 

“We’re really fortunate that this is not slowing us down,” she said. “We are following guidelines from the state for construction, which means social distancing as much as possible and wearing masks pretty much all the time or whenever possible.”

The project is currently slated for completion in October.

“We’re right on track,” said Elise Thatcher, Colorado Department of Transportation’s communications manager for Northwest Colorado. “One of the great things about this project is that we’re using a polyester concrete overlay, which is essentially a top layer of roadway that will last quite a bit longer.”

Sturdier materials means a similar project is unlikely to be necessary for quite some time, which was an important consideration for CDOT in undertaking the multi-phase project.

“The timing and phasing of this project was designed to accomplish work as efficiently and as early as possible,” CDOT Project Engineer Josh Cullen said in a news release. “We are very grateful for everyone’s patience so far and look forward to completing the next steps to deliver these important infrastructure improvements.”

Crashes and delays so far

Sundays are typically the worst day for delays through the construction zone, Thatcher said. CDOT records show nearly 36 hours of full or partial road closures due to severe wrecks between mile markers 116 and 133 from April 22 to June 9. 

During that time period, CDOT logged 11 severe traffic incidents, one of which was fatal. The longest closure lasted nearly 11 hours May 15, stemming from a multi-vehicle crash.

Slow down to arrive sooner

Typically, travelers should budget an extra 20 minutes to travel through the canyon, Thatcher said, but delays can vary throughout the weekend. Thatcher said motorists should obey the speed limit and drive cautiously. Doing so decreases the potential for a full or partial closure of I-70 through Glenwood Canyon.

“We understand life is stressful right now, and the last thing you want to do is go through a construction zone,” Thatcher said. “(But) if we can keep everything moving slowly, then we’re hoping to reduce the delays on Sundays that much more.”

Call before you hit the road

Recognizing the importance of I-70 through Glenwood Canyon in accessing some of Colorado’s natural splendor, CDOT provides a hotline for motorists: 970-618-5379. Travelers can give it a ring or text before heading through the Canyon for the most up-to-date travel info — provided by an actual human, Thatcher said.

“We really encourage that anyone call that (number) if they need to get the latest information,” she said. “We’ve got a live person on the other end, and that’s not that common these days with hotlines, so be sure to take advantage of it.”

pbaumann@postindependent.com


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