Rocks gone, traffic rolling through Glenwood Canyon |

Rocks gone, traffic rolling through Glenwood Canyon

John Gardner
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Kelley Cox Post Independent

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Interstate 70 through the Glenwood Canyon reopened about 3 p.m. Thursday afternoon after being closed by a rock fall since late Sunday night.

Traffic remains limited to one lane in each direction, with a 14-foot width restriction and 40 mph speed restriction through the damaged section of canyon for the duration of repairs.

Lane closures will be in effect starting at mile marker 124.5 to the west of the Hanging Lake Tunnel, to about mile marker 126 to the east of the tunnel, according to Colorado Department of Transportation spokeswoman Nancy Shanks.

CDOT had been working on getting one traffic lane in each direction open on I-70 through Glenwood Canyon since a rock fall closed the road late Sunday night.

About 20 boulders, the largest roughly the size of a tractor trailer, punched about a dozen holes in the road surface. The fall caused a 20-foot-by-10-foot hole in the westbound lanes, and another 6-foot-by-6-foot hole in the eastbound lanes, and damaged a steel support girder, sections of the guardrail, median barricade and pre-cast retaining walls.

The rock fall closed the entire 17-mile section of I-70 through Glenwood Canyon for more than three days, causing traffic to detour roughly 200 miles north through Steamboat Springs.

CDOT crews cleared from all lanes rock debris brought down by Wednesday’s mitigation work, removing a large boulder above the fall area. The blast brought down about a dozen larger boulders, and many smaller rocks.

Gov. Bill Ritter declared the canyon an emergency disaster Monday evening, allowing the state to seek federal funding to help cover repair costs. Funds will be covered out of CDOT’s contingency fund to pay for repairs, and then CDOT could be reimbursed by the Federal Highway Department.

Federal Highway Department personnel were on scene Thursday, as well, assessing the damage. CDOT has applied for Federal Emergency Relief Funds, and Shanks said that they are hoping to be reimbursed for at least a portion of repair costs.

“We’ll be able to give more information on where we are at on federal funding when we have a contractor on board,” Shanks said.

Contractors inspected the damage Tuesday and are expected to return bids for the repair work Friday, according to Shanks. Work will begin immediately after a bid is awarded, but Shanks did not know specifically when work would begin. A press release issued by CDOT said that repair plan information would be released Friday afternoon.

Repair costs are expected to be as much as $2 million according to CDOT program engineer Joe Elsen. Repairs after a rock fall on Thanksgiving Day in 2004 took two months to complete.

Crews set up traffic control cones, barrels, and signage on the interstate Wednesday, so the highway could open quickly when debris was cleared.

Delays are expected at first, but “shouldn’t be a big deal,” Shanks said.

The opening was welcomed news for Gypsum resident Syra Morley, who works at Mountain Valley Developmental Services in Glenwood Springs. She attempted to make the long detour through Steamboat Springs Wednesday, just to get to work, but turned around because of adverse weather.

“I chickened out,” she said. “I decided that it was going to make for a really long day and night.”

Morley was just one of numerous amounts of local residents and travelers who were affected by the closure. She said that even though the canyon was reopened Thursday, it was going to be a little unsettling driving through the canyon after seeing the photos of the large boulders that came crashing down.

“I am thinking about testing it out [Friday],” Morley said. “But it’s still nerve-racking.”

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