Drivers report long waits in canyon; CDOT evaluates |

Drivers report long waits in canyon; CDOT evaluates

On the third night of the canyon re-opening via a pilot car operation, cars quickly began backing up past the No Name tunnel going into Glenwood Canyon.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent |

After several drivers reported long delays getting through Glenwood Canyon on Monday evening and motorists eager to get on the road created backups, the Colorado Department of Transportation decided to tweak access to Interstate 70.

CDOT Region 3 spokeswoman Tracy Trulove said the decision was made Tuesday to have eastbound drivers entering I-70 at Glenwood Springs in the afternoon head west to Exit 111 (Canyon Creek), exit and cross I-70, then come back east toward the canyon.

On the east side of the canyon, westbound drivers entering from the Dotsero area are asked to travel east and enter I-70 at Gypsum, rather than Dotsero, to help ease traffic backups on that end, she said.

“This was an effort to keep people from queuing up before they needed to,” Trulove told the Post Independent. “Our thought was to kind of stretch it out.”

I-70 through the canyon remains closed during the day between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. until further notice, as rockfall mitigation efforts continue following a massive slide last week that closed the interstate for six days until Sunday night.

Pilot car operations are in effect overnight, starting at 4 p.m. daily and ending at 9 a.m., for the foreseeable future.

Since CDOT started the overnight pilot car escorts, drivers have reported delays of around two hours going east, with some westbound drivers reporting upwards of four hours or more of waiting.

Michael Dunn, commenting Tuesday on the Post Independent’s Facebook page, confirmed that.

“I got in line at Dotsero last night at about 7 p.m. Arrived in Glenwood at 12:45,” he wrote. “Definitely would have been better to drive the detour. I think I could have walked it faster!”

During the daytime closure periods, westbound motorists must take a northerly detour onto state Highway 9 or 131 from Silverthorne and Wolcott, respectively, then west on U.S. 40 from Steamboat Springs to Craig, and south on Highway 13 to Rifle. A southern route via U.S. routes 285, 24 and 50 over to Monarch Pass and west to Grand Junction is also an option.

Steve Child, a Pitkin County commissioner, said he also spent four hours getting from Dotsero to Glenwood Springs starting at 6:30 p.m. Monday.

“I was coming back from Denver, and they said to expect a wait of an hour or more. I got way more,” Child said.

He said traffic was much heavier headed west than east, and the long waits were extremely frustrating.

“I recommended to our county manager that no one with the county plan on going over” to the other side of the canyon, he said. “We were waiting for half an hour over and over and over.”

Andy Kaufman of No Name, who owns the Minturn Saloon, said in an email to the Post Independent that it took him 1 1/2 hours to get through the canyon Monday morning starting at about 8:15 a.m. But his return trip that night was over 4 1/2 hours. He said he didn’t hit the No Name exit until 2:20 a.m. Tuesday.

“I realize it is a difficult and dangerous situation, but more frequent updates and alerts might help the local travelers make informed decisions about driving through the canyon,” Kaufman said.

“It’s a bit of a work in progress,” CDOT communications director Amy Ford said Tuesday morning. “We’re still encouraging people to consider the detour through Steamboat Springs. It’s a question of sitting and waiting versus moving. Everyone has their tolerance for one or the other.

“I anticipate there will be several more days with the pilot car before we can get to head-to-head traffic,” Ford said.

Meanwhile, cars have been queuing up hours before the pilot car arrives, which CDOT discourages. Ford said the agency was working on ways to streamline the process.

The limited hours allowed this week for people to pass through the canyon, as well as last week’s full closure, impacted 13 Roaring Fork School District teachers who live on the Eagle County side, RFSD Superintendent Diana Sirko said.

They were given two days’ emergency leave last week, although some did manage to find a place to stay in the Roaring Fork Valley for the remainder of the week and avoid the long detour, she said.

“This week they have been able to leave early enough to get through the canyon in the morning,” Sirko said. “They have been very tenacious and have worked hard to try to keep up with their commitments.”

Updated information and alerts are posted at CDOT’s website, and recorded on the 511 information phone line.

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