Glenwood Canyon rockslide closures not as common as it seems |

Glenwood Canyon rockslide closures not as common as it seems

Randy Essex
This aerial shot taken from a helicopter on Tuesday shows damage from this week's slide in the Glenwood Canyon.
Colorado Department of Transportation |

It sure seems like rockslides close Glenwood Canyon a lot, doesn’t it?

Data for the last four years, though, tell a different story. From Jan. 1, 2012, through the end of 2015, rockslides closed Interstate 70 through the canyon in at least one direction only four times, usually briefly.

Until this week, with I-70 through the canyon now in the midst of its longest closure since 2010, recent years have been fairly mild, information from the Colorado Department of Transportation shows.

In the previous four years, rockfall closed I-70 westbound three times: On Sept. 9 and Oct. 30, 2013, for 35 and 48 minutes, respectively; and for 34 minutes on July 11, 2014. The worst closure of the last four years was June 11, 2015, a damp day when travel was hampered for nearly eight hours. I-70 was closed for nearly two hours in both directions that afternoon.

CDOT spends $8.5 million a year statewide on rockfall mitigation, agency spokeswoman Amy Ford said.

I-70 through the canyon is closed frequently, though, according to the four years of data obtained by the PI through the Colorado Open Records Act:

• The road saw a total of 133 hours and 36 minutes of closure in at least one direction during the four years. That’s 33 hours and 24 minutes a year, or 38 minutes a week, on average.

• The eastbound lanes were closed most often in 2012-15, accounting for nearly 53 hours.

• I-70 through the canyon was closed in both directions a total of nearly 34 hours, or about a quarter of the total closure time.

• Accidents and cleanup accounted for nearly 100 hours of the closures.

• Jackknifed semis composed a bit over 10 hours of the accidents broken out in the data.

• Two police actions accounted for almost as much closure time as rockslides during the four years, a bit more than nine and a half hours, eight hours of which was when a trooper was wounded and his assailant killed on May 8, 2014.

• Until this year, February was the least disruptive month to travel the canyon since the beginning of 2012. For the four years before 2016, February had seen only three closures in the canyon accounting for less than three hours of closure time. October was the next best time to drive through the canyon, with only three closure incidents totaling 5 hours and 25 minutes during the period studied.

• Not surprisingly, December and January saw the most disruption, with 19 hours and 25 minutes of total closure time in the past four Decembers and 21 hours and 45 minutes in January 2012, ‘13, ‘14 and ‘15.

• 2012 and 2014 had about 35 1/2 hours of closures each; 2013 was the lightest year, with 30 hours and 40 minutes of closure.

• The longest closure of the past four years was on May 22, 2013, when an accident at 5 a.m. led to eight and a half hours of disruption.

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