PI Editorial: Keeping Glenwood Canyon open is no easy job, but CDOT is up to the task
Talk about a tough job.
For hours on end these past two weeks, Colorado Department of Transportation workers have responded with incredible flexibility and speed to ever-changing conditions along Interstate 70 in Glenwood Canyon.
They have coordinated with numerous other agencies — the U.S. Forest Service, Garfield and Eagle counties, the city of Glenwood Springs, Colorado State Patrol, National Weather Service and more — to keep motorists safe and traffic moving.
But there’s only so much they or anyone can do about the 30,000-acre Grizzly Creek Fire burn scar that scoured parts of the canyon and Flat Tops. Lacking vegetation to hold it in place, soils throughout the area are easily swept onto I-70 — during heavy rains such as what we’ve experienced recently.
CDOT estimates there are roughly 20 drainages at risk of significant debris flows through the canyon, which means even one major culvert project would do very little to keep the road open more often than it is now. In addition, despite the recent closures, there is significantly more soil high up threatening to come down, according to CDOT and NWS projections.
Mother Nature is running the show — all our government agencies can do is plan and respond as best they can.
CDOT and its partner agencies are doing just that. Faced with the demanding if unappreciated task of balancing public safety with your need for travel, CDOT has threaded the needle these past two weeks. Workers have kept the road open as long as possible and closed it only when there is a significant chance of a flash flood.
When the inevitable debris slides happen, CDOT has wrangled resources from around the state to help with cleanup. They get traffic moving as quickly as they can. One challenge in their response, however, is the physical space available for heavy equipment in the canyon. CDOT has brought in additional water tankers from the Front Range to help with debris flow cleanup, but any more equipment would likely just bog things down.
Still, they’ve toiled around the clock to get I-70 reopened in a safe manner as quickly as possible these past two weeks.
As to the possibility of further soil mitigation higher up the canyon walls, CDOT’s right of way is not much wider than the interstate. Anything beyond that is the responsibility of the U.S. Forest Service.
One final thing we should all keep in mind: In addition to their invaluable efforts to keep traffic flowing through Glenwood Canyon, CDOT workers are right there with us feeling the impacts and frustrations of canyon closures. They take calls from family members and friends wondering when it’s going to reopen, they have to change travel plans or add hours to a commute when the canyon’s closed. It’s sometimes too easy to forget the very real people who do the work behind the acronyms of government agencies, but it’s all a very human endeavor at the end of the day. So offer a friendly wave or note of appreciation the next time you see CDOT employees at work. After all, it’s the neighborly thing to do.
Thanks to CDOT area Regional Transportation Director Mike Goolsby, Deputy Maintenance Superintendent Kane Schneider and Deputy Maintenance Superintendent Todd Blake and all CDOT employees for their work to keep Glenwood Canyon open.
The Post Independent editorial board members are Publisher Bryce Jacobson, Editor Peter Baumann, Managing Editor/Senior Reporter John Stroud, and community representatives Amy Connerton and Karl Oelke.
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around Glenwood Springs and Garfield County make the Post Independent’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.
PI Editorial: Despite recent setbacks, let’s not lose sight of a south escape route for Glenwood Springs
Recently the challenges have mounted against making another bridge connecting south Glenwood Springs to the Colorado Highway 82 corridor.