Rockfall repair work continues in Glenwood Canyon as wet winter weather returns
Danger higher this year following Grizzly Creek Fire
A trio of rocks about the size of a household kitchen appliance caused some of the “most dramatic” damage to Glenwood Canyon’s highway infrastructure during the height of last summer’s Grizzly Creek Fire.
Colorado Department of Transportation regional communications manager Elise Thatcher said the rocks knocked the bike path that runs adjacent to Interstate 70 a full 6 inches off its piers in one section.
The damage occurred during the two-week closure of the interstate right after the fire began Aug. 10, she said.
The bike path has since been reset, and some concrete patch work will need to be done in the spring before it reopens.
For now, though, the majority of the repair work is focused on the protective rockfall structures that were also severely damaged during the wildfire.
The return of regular moisture and fluctuating temperatures that typically signals rockfall season along Colorado highways isn’t slowing that work. Given the increasing risk with the usual freeze-thaw cycles this time of year, it’s top priority, Thatcher said.
Since December, work has been ongoing to prepare for the increased likelihood of rockfall and landslides associated with the fire scar area.
The fire, believed to have been caused by a passing motorist, ultimately burned more than 32,600 acres on either side of the steep canyon that stretches 12 miles west to east between Glenwood Springs and Dotsero.
A second emergency contract — part of the overall estimated $3.9 million in repairs — is now being carried out to complete the work, Thatcher said.
The project includes repairing 16 damaged rockfall fences, two new rockfall catchment fences and 5,500 linear feet of temporary roadway barrier that’s mounted to the catchment fencing, Thatcher said.
“The fencing will help catch rockfall if it lands on or near the roadway,” she said.
As a result of the second phase of repair work, CDOT anticipates more traffic impacts starting in February.
For now, that means a Monday-through-Friday right lane closure westbound on I-70 in several locations between Bair Ranch and Grizzly Creek during daytime hours.
Some 30-minute traffic stops are expected to be required as the work progresses, but will be limited to Tuesdays, Wednesday and Thursdays, Thatcher said.
The majority of the work is taking place between mile points 119 and 125 on the north side of the interstate, just west of the Hanging Lake Tunnels.
Work is weather dependent and scheduled to continue into the spring, Thatcher said.
After I-70 reopened in late August as the immediate danger from the Grizzly Creek Fire subsided, CDOT issued an emergency contract to repair the damage left in the wake of the fire.
In addition to the rockfall containment fixes, repairs also needed to be made to concrete barriers and parapets, steel structure rails, electrical and fiber optic conduit and associated wiring and pavement.
“Most dramatically,” Thatcher said, was the damaged bridge section of the popular Glenwood Canyon bike path, which every year is also prone to damage from the spring runoff on the Colorado River.
“The emergency contract also includes wood straw mulching and seeding of burned areas within the highway easement deed,” Thatcher said.
The current repair work is expected to cost $1.4 million, and the subsequent rockfall fence repair and new rockfall fence construction is estimated to cost $2.5 million, she said.
“CDOT will continue assessing the final cost of these damages, repairs and additional work,” Thatcher said.
More information about the work and related traffic impacts can be found on the project webpage [https://www.codot.gov/projects/i70-glenwood-grizzlycreek-rockfallfence]
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