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Glenwood Springs updating plans to handle large-scale accidents, fire incident traffic

Eastbound traffic on Interstate 70 sits at a standstill just east of exit 116 in Glenwood Springs after a small fire ignited in the median near Grizzly Creek shutting down both lanes of traffic in July 2020.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

The city of Glenwood Springs is making updates to a working document called the Traffic Incident Management Plan Agreement (TIM) and the Emergency Operations Update.

“Effectively the TIM plan is a playbook,” Fire Chief Gary Tillotson said.

The plan will help all agencies within the region to know what action to take in a large-scale accident.



“The intent of the plan is for us, in a non-emergent situation, to sit and discuss pre-identified places where when we have an [Interstate] 70 or Highway 82 incident, places that we can stop traffic, turn it around or detour it as quickly as possible, and in a predetermined fashion,” Tillotson said.

Primarily, the plan provides procedures and direction to agencies in Garfield County regarding the complete or partial closure of highway systems in the event of a large accident, according to the city council packet. 



Due to recent fires and mudslides, the plan added the potential closure of Glenwood or South canyons too. 

“Glenwood is unusual as you know,” City Engineer Terri Partch said. “Unusual in that we have those very restrictive canyons on either side. One of the things that immediately needed to happen with a TIMs plan was to include the Glenwood Canyon closure plan that was developed specifically for our debris flow events that we knew would occur.”

Partch said the second update that needed to be added was South Canyon and the potential closure of the West Glenwood exit.

Partch spoke of a previous fire in the area, which forced the city to close South Canyon after the West Glenwood exit.

“Traffic flowed into Glenwood and essentially caused gridlock across our system,” Partch said “If there were an evacuation order out of the north side of Glenwood no one would be able to go anywhere.”

Tillotson also described the same event as a place of concern. This includes how the main stopping place for a long-term closure in Glenwood Canyon is the Dotsero exit. The TIM plan has exit 133 or the Carbondale exit as one long-term closure location.

“The 133 allows us to stop traffic and divert it to other areas,” Partch said. “So that is our proposed long-term closure. If in fact we have an evacuation issue or something similar to what happened with a mile marker 11 fire.”

Deciding and communicating closures are the first requirements to prevent people from moving toward a closure unknowingly, and manpower and collaboration are the second main priorities in providing safety to members of the community, Tillotson said.

This also includes having enough bodies to route people in the right direction, and then making sure all agencies are on the same page. For example, this means making sure the city and county, along with organizations like the Colorado Department of Transportation, Colorado State Patrol and even the local school districts are all on board with the same plan. 

Partch cited two main areas where engineering is working with CDOT and the Federal Highway Administration to create highway access control line breaks, or a-line breaks, which are breaks that cut across the highway and onto a frontage road to help redirect traffic in a standstill situation. 

Storm King is one spot where design and allowance are nearly complete for the first a-line break. 

The second location is West First Street, where the city’s legal team is currently working to contact the owner to negotiate an encroachment onto their property. 

“It was a week ago or more and we released the RFP for the Glenwood Springs Emergency Management Plan,” Partch said. “The purpose behind the Glenwood Springs Emergency Management plan would be to help us plan what will happen internally if, in fact, we have a large police issue, a fire evacuation, anything substantial that requires people to move you in some direction, either out of the city or to some other area.”

The request for proposals for the Emergency Operations Plan includes these elements, according to the packet.

  • Existing document review 
  • Identification of potential large-scale police, fire and public works emergencies 
  • Determination of traffic management locations, training and equipment needed for evacuations 
  • Communication protocols and neighborhood plans 
  • Coordination with the hospital, school district and assisted living facilities. Evaluation of their plans, and any assistance the city may need to provide 
  • Coordination with Garfield County. This plan will be the city’s plan. The county has its own plan. Local jurisdictions are encouraged in their plan to have a local plan and a local emergency manager 
  • Review of the TIM plan. Coordination with the county, CDOT and Colorado State Patrol to integrate the city’s EOP 
  • Identification of potential safe zones, areas of refuge, shelters and opportunities to shelter in place 
  • Review and expand existing resource spreadsheet
  • Coordination meetings with CDOT, CSP and the County Emergency Manager 
  • Coordination meetings with the school district, Valley View Hospital, assisted living facilities and RFTA

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