Weather or not, I-70 repair work continues
GLENWOOD CANYON – The loud buzzing is annoying. The cold temperatures and bitter winds aren’t any better.A night’s fresh snow, pristine white, covers most of the mountainside, where just a month ago a massive rockslide shut down Interstate 70 for 30 hours.The temperature on this morning hovers near the 25-degree mark. Factor in the wind, and it’s more like 10 degrees. A working man’s life in the Glenwood Canyon rockslide construction area is not ideal.But Gene Beauchamp is a like a mailman: Nothing, not even extreme weather or jackhammers, will keep him from his job.”I’m from New Jersey,” the Silt resident said, taking a break Wednesday from clearing the debris in the jackhammer zone. That means he’s used to bitter weather, he said.Beauchamp is one of about seven workers laboring on this morning, trying to put I-70 back together again after Mother Nature tore it down on Thanksgiving morning.Construction on the $1.4 million project is coming along smoothly, despite cold weather, snow storms and any other thing that comes along.”We’re currently on schedule,” said construction manager Bill Kingsley of Carter-Burgess. That’s pretty good, he said, considering the magnitude of the rockslide. “It’s the worst rockslide in the canyon’s history,” he said.The eastbound lanes are repaired, he said. Workers at Kiewit Western, the company in charge of rebuilding I-70, are now focusing on the westbound lanes, which incurred the most significant damage from the rockslide.The westbound lanes are not too recognizable. Most of the action on this morning is in a hole spanning about 35 feet of the interstate.Workers are tearing down three panels of the mechanical stabilized earth wall, or the big retaining wall that keeps I-70 stable through the canyon.Jose Rodriquez and Jorge Quezda are working jackhammers, tearing apart the pavement and a top layer of concrete to expose the massive panels. The noise is deafening and the work hard. Each looks in serious need of a break.The double-T panels, which are 10 feet wide and 23 feet high and about 8 inches thick, were significantly damaged in the rockslide.”Can you imagine the energy that created this damage?” Kingsley asked.Not really. Each of the panels weighs about 18,000 pounds, Kingsley said. BTE Construction in Rifle is making new sections of panels to replace the damaged ones and will truck them to the site.Once the old panels are destroyed and cleared out, the new ones are in place and the earth is backfilled in to exacting measures, workers will move about 100 yards east and start again on two other damaged panels.And then the westbound lanes need to be re-paved.If all this work is completed within a 60-day window, or by sometime in late January, Kiewit gets a bonus.Looking at the significant damage and work still to be done, that seems hard to fathom. But who knows, these workers work long days, long hours, long weeks, Kingsley said, so anything is possible.If not, the I-70 headache extends for drivers.Concrete and pavement aren’t the only things the rockslide damaged.One section of the huge steel girders that lie under the eastbound lanes was also damaged. That section of steel wasn’t replaced, but workers had to heat the steel to 1,100 degrees, molding it back to its original shape, a process way more technical than the simplicity of this explanation.Kingsley, who also is overseeing the Grand Avenue Paving Project, said the bike path that runs along the Colorado River also might need to be repaired.And, much to kayakers’ dismay, a huge boulder, probably weighing 10 tons, sits squarely in the water flow of the river, looking a little out of place. State transportation officials said that boulder along with others in the river from the rockslide will be blown up and removed from the river to protect the flow and water table.Meanwhile, the flurries are stopping, but the sun isn’t out yet. And it’s still excruciatingly cold.Traffic is flowing slowly, one way each direction, navigating the wet, slushy highway.Beauchamp doesn’t seem to mind. He seems at home constructing an interstate.That means building I-70 in the canyon for a second time is a serious case of déja vú and a little bit of irony.”I worked on the original project,” he said.
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The city of Rifle plans to allocate grant funding for improvements to Railroad Avenue and Third Street.