I-70 closure longest in history
Post Independent Staff
This week’s Interstate 70 closure, which created a shortage of bananas, among other things, in Glenwood Springs, is believed to be the longest in the highway’s history.
“I’ve been tapping into memories, and we think this is the longest Interstate 70 has been closed,” said Colorado Department of Transportation spokesperson Stacey Stegman. “In 1995, on Valentine’s Day, it was closed for 24 hours.”
The Colorado Department of Transportation closed sections of Interstate 70 Tuesday due to heavy snows and high avalanche dangers. The section from Morrison, near Denver, west to Frisco was closed at approximately 4 p.m. Stegman said CDOT planned to open one westbound lane at Morrison, and an eastbound lane at Frisco, for two hours late Thursday afternoon.
“The avalanche danger is OK,” Stegman said. “We’ll work overnight to get it open.”
The two-hour window of opportunity was designed to allow stranded motorists to get back on the road, before letting CDOT close the interstate again so crews could finish the job by Friday morning.
State highways and mountain passes north and south of Interstate 70 were effectively closed from Tuesday afternoon through much of Thursday. A Colorado State Patrol advisory, issued at 3:12 Thursday afternoon, asked motorists not to use Highway 9 and Highway 285 until I-70 was reopened. Due to vehicle volume and poor road conditions, traffic on those roads was congested to the point of virtually being stopped.
The interstate’s closure meant that mail, gasoline, grocery store items and other goods could not be delivered from Denver. Grocery shoppers Thursday morning learned that not a single banana could be had.
“We haven’t had a delivery since Monday,” said Glenwood Springs City Market manager Kevin Flohr. “Our trucks have been trapped between here and Denver.”
Flohr said his store stocks a one-day’s supply of bananas to keep them fresh, so they were among the first items to vanish. “We’re down to our last few heads of lettuce,” Flohr said late Thursday afternoon.
City Market was also running low on meat. Milk comes from Grand Junction, “so there’s no problem with that,” Flohr said.
Flohr said he expected the store to be back up and running Friday morning. “All in all,” Flohr said. “It’s been pretty smooth.”
At the Glenwood Springs post office, deliveries were down about 75 percent Thursday, because there wasn’t much to deliver. “We didn’t get any mail, except what Grand Junction sent us,” said Glenwood Springs postmaster Jon Dunbar.
Dunbar couldn’t do anything about the westbound mail trucks that were stuck between Denver and Glenwood Springs, but he could take steps to send mail out of town. “Letters and first-class mail, but no parcels, will go to Salt Lake City through Grand Junction,” Dunbar said.
With Denver International Airport open again, mail is backing up in Denver. “We’re gearing up for a busy weekend,” Dunbar said.
The blizzard never reached Glenwood Springs, so local motorists continued driving around, consuming gasoline. In the meantime, gasoline tanker trucks couldn’t reach Glenwood after the interstate closed.
“We ran out of gas at 4 p.m. yesterday,” said Bradley clerk Phil Hasley at his station on South Grand Avenue. “There was no premium, no unleaded, no nothing.”
Bradley, which sells Sinclair gasoline, did not go without gas for long. “We brought it in from Grand Junction,” Hasley said.
At the front end of Thursday’s afternoon rush hour, all six of Hasley’s pumps were filling vehicles one after the other.
“It’s been a madhouse here today,” Hasley said.
Contact Lynn Burton: 945-8515, ext. 534
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