Where are all those rocks going?Glenwood Canyon work progresses to debris removal after completion of roadway repairs this month
Many of the large boulders that tumbled down the steep slopes and gullies of Glenwood Canyon across Interstate 70 and into the Colorado River during last summer’s record rainstorms are set to be put to good use.
As soon as work concludes this month on the emergency roadway repairs necessitated by a series of intense flash-flood events, work will commence to remove the massive amounts of debris still clogging the river.
The Colorado Department of Transportation contracted with two companies to remove the debris from four different locations in the river channel, said Andrew Knapp, resident engineer for CDOT.
One of those contractors, Lawrence Trucking and Hauling, has arranged to haul debris to Flag Sand and Gravel outside Silt to be used in a gravel pit reclamation project.
Another contractor, IHC Scott, plans to take possession of some of the rock debris to be used in its own operations. The rocks will be stored and eventually processed into aggregate for concrete and asphalt that will later be used on other highway paving and construction projects, Knapp said.
After the massive debris flows in July and August closed I-70 for two weeks, much of the mix of mud, rocks and tree fragments that had to be cleared off the highway was hauled to different dump sites on CDOT rights of way.
Some of those sites were located along the I-70 corridor near Dotsero and at Canyon Creek. Another was along Colorado Highway 82 across from Aspen Glen, which also became the dump site for debris that washed across Colorado Highway 133 south of Carbondale in some of the same rain events.
“During the immediacy of the event, we need a close, easy place to take the material,” Knapp said. “Haul distance is a critical driver of the cost to remove all of that debris, so we are always eager to find closer locations.”
Another dump location that was recently arranged involves private property near Dotsero, where the landowner plans to make use of the material for fill, he said.
On to the next phase
Meanwhile, CDOT contractors are working around this week’s forecast snowstorm to wrap up the last of about $10 million in highway repairs that were needed following the debris slides.
Eastbound lane closures on I-70 in Glenwood Canyon could be lifted by the end of this week, weather permitting.
Crews have been busy this week pouring concrete on barriers and doing final paving on the road surface, Knapp said.
In addition to damage to the road surface and barrier walls, there was significant damage to a culvert that runs beneath the eastbound lanes that needed to be repaired.
“That has taken a little bit longer,” he said.
Roadway work was scheduled to be completed by the end of this week, but weather delays may now push that into next week, CDOT officials said.
Once that work is done, work is expected to begin on the debris removal, which also will result in intermittent eastbound lane closures.
Debris removal will take place at four different locations between the end of this month and April 30 — Blue Gulch and Wagon Gulch between mile markers 123.5 and 124.5, and farther east into the canyon at Devil’s Hole and one other pile in that vicinity, Knapp said.
“We could have up to four simultaneous operations at times, but most likely the work will be focused on two areas at a time,” he said.
Given that the work will take place during the winter months, activity will be limited to times when the weather is not bad. There will not be lane closures in place when debris removal is not occurring, Knapp said.
“We will also avoid the 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. commuting time,” he said.
CDOT is also working to line up a contractor to remove debris piled up behind the various rockfall fences in the canyon.
Occasional 30-minute traffic holds may also be necessary later this month when helicopter operations are needed to remove some of the equipment used during repair and mitigation work, CDOT officials also said.
Cleanup and repair work has cost about $13.5 million, with another $9 million slated for removing debris from the Colorado River channel.
Federal emergency response funds were released to pay for the work, and more has been requested, including $50 million in resiliency funds aimed at upgrading Cottonwood Pass for a detour route during future I-70 closures.
Planning for that effort, which will involve an extensive environmental analysis and public input process, is expected to get under way next year.
Recreation path closed for winter
Also this past week, CDOT closed the Glenwood Canyon recreation path for the remainder of the winter and early spring months.
The seasonal closure is in place from No Name (Exit 119) to the Dotsero trailhead (Exit 133), a news release states.
The eastern section of the path had already been closed due to damage caused by the summer mudslides. The recreation path usually reopens in the spring before the runoff begins, and often closes again depending on river runoff levels in May and June.
The No Name and Grizzly Creek rest areas and the Shoshone Power Plant (Exit 123) are currently open in the canyon.
However, the Hanging Lake Rest Area (Exit 125) and Bair Ranch Rest Area (Exit 129) are closed.
The Hanging Lake trail also continues to be closed. More information is available at VisitGlenwood.com/hanginglake.
Motorists who plan to travel on I-70 in Glenwood Canyon through the winter are advised to regularly check road conditions on COtrip.org and weather forecasts.
Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or email@example.com.
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Leo Spielberger’s family lost everything in the Marshall Fire in late December.