Head-to-head Glenwood Canyon opening possible Thursday p.m.
Colorado Department of Transportation officials may be able to open Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon to two-way, head-to-head traffic by Thursday afternoon.
Daytime closures could also be coming to an end, CDOT Region 3 spokeswoman Tracy Trulove said Wednesday afternoon.
However, that decision will not be made until crews determine it’s safe to begin 24/7 traffic through the canyon, she said.
In the meantime, there’s still a lot of cleanup and rockfall safety work to be done following the massive rockslide last week that closed the canyon for six days until limited passage was allowed Sunday night, she said.
“The goal of the project team is to get to a point where we can move to a head-to-head configuration,” Trulove said. “Most likely, that would be (Thursday afternoon). We are working very hard to get to that next step.”
At that point, the daytime closures would be lifted and eastbound and westbound traffic would be running concurrently through the six-mile rockfall area. Pace cars would still be used to lead traffic in both directions in an effort to control speeds through the canyon.
“There will still be some delays of up to an hour or more, especially during those peak times when there are higher traffic volumes,” she said.
In the meantime, pilot car continued to lead east and westbound traffic in alternating fashion overnight Wednesday.
I-70 through the canyon is to remain closed during the day between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. until further notice while crews continue cleanup and rockfall mitigation work, Trulove said.
She said things went more smoothly during pilot operations Tuesday night and Wednesday morning after CDOT decided to change the access points on either side of the canyon to help prevent major traffic backups.
“We did hear (from police) that things went much more smoothly this morning, with no major backups,” Trulove said. “Still, during the afternoon in particular, people are still experiencing two-hour-plus delays getting through the canyon.
“People need to be aware that if they are traveling during those peak hours there will be delays,” she said.
The highest traffic volumes have been between 6:30-9 a.m., and after the 4 p.m. reopening until well after 8 p.m., usually clearing out around 10 p.m. Westbound traffic in particular has been heavy during the evening hours.
As pilot car operations resumed Wednesday afternoon, motorists entering I-70 at Glenwood Springs were still being asked to travel west about three miles and use Exit 111 (Canyon Creek) to get back onto eastbound I-70.
The eastbound I-70 on ramp at Exit 116 was also closed in order to allow westbound Highway 82 commuter traffic to use both I-70 on-ramp lanes.
And, the westbound off ramp at Exit 114 (West Glenwood) was closed in an effort to prevent backups into the roundabouts.
Normal eastbound access at both Exits 114 and 116 was expected once peak traffic volumes cleared. If alternating pilot operations continue Thursday afternoon, the same restrictions are expected to be in place.
On the east side of the canyon, those entering I-70 from the Dotsero area had to travel east to Gypsum and get back on westbound I-70 at that point to help avoid traffic backups.
Meanwhile, CDOT crews were continuing with rockfall mitigation efforts following the massive rockslide last week that closed I-70 through the canyon for the better part of six days until Sunday night.
Trulove said all of the large boulders on the eastbound lanes were broken up and the material hauled off on Wednesday.
“We are working on more permanent rockfall fencing,” she said. “A hole in the eastbound deck has been plated and patched over.”
During the daytime closure period, westbound motorists must take a northerly detour via state Highway 9 from Silverthorne or Highway 131 from Wolcott, then west on U.S. 40 from Steamboat Springs to Craig, and south on Highway 13 to Rifle.
A southern route westbound via U.S. routes 285, 24 and 50 over to Monarch Pass and west to Grand Junction is also an option.
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