| VailDaily.com

UPDATE: I-70 reopens both directions through Glenwood Canyon following multi-vehicle wreck

Colorado State Patrol on Twitter reported that 17 vehicles were involved in a wreck through Glenwood Canyon on Monday, Jan. 3. Courtesy / Colorado State Patrol

UPDATE 2:07 P.M.: Interestate 70 is now reopened in both directions through Glenwood Canyon.

UPDATE 11:33 A.M.: Interstate 70 is now closed westbound at the Dotsero exit, mile marker 133, and eastbound at the Glenwood Springs exit, mile marker 116, for a wreck.

On Twitter, the Colorado State Patrol reported the wreck involved 17 vehicles.

Original story:

Interstate 70 eastbound is closed at the Glenwood Springs exit, mile marker 116, for a wreck, according to a Garfield County alert sent shortly before 10 a.m. Monday morning, Jan. 3.

Glenwood Canyon work progresses to debris removal following roadway repairs

Construction crews work to rebuild a barrier near MM 123.5 on Interstate 70 in Glenwood Canyon on Monday afternoon.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

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.

A massive debris flow sits in the Colorado River after washing down the Devils Hole drainage in Glenwood Canyon near MM 125, in this Aug. 11 photo.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent file

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 right-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

Construction crews work to rebuild a barrier on Interstate 70 in Glenwood Canyon on Monday afternoon.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

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 points 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 https://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.

A flagger tells traffic to go slow through a construction zone in Glenwood Canyon on Monday afternoon. The recreation path that runs the length of the canyon, pictured in the lower left, is now closed for the winter.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or jstroud@postindependent.com.

I-70 reopens Friday through Glenwood Canyon after warning expires for Grizzly Creek burn scar

Interstate 70 has reopened Friday night through Glenwood Canyon after a flash flood warning expired for the Grizzly Creek burn scar and the road was checked for debris.

Colorado Department of Transportation crews “did a sweep of the canyon to ensure no slide materials entered the interstate and have deemed it safe to reopen,” the agency said just after 6:30 p.m.

CDOT crews will remain on standby at closure points in case there are future rain events this evening, officials said. For those traveling through Glenwood Canyon over the holiday weekend, there is a chance Saturday that a weak storm is capable of brief light rain on the burn scar, according to forecasters. Sunday and Monday should be pleasant and dry, CDOT said.

The National Weather service issued the flash flood warning Friday afternoon.

UPDATE: I-70 westbound reopens at Dotsero

UPDATE 6:28 P.M.: Interstate 70 westbound at Dotsero is now reopened.

Interstate 70 westbound was closed just east of Glenwood Canyon due to a crash, according to a Garfield County alert sent out just after 4:30 p.m.

 

I-70 reopens through Glenwood Canyon early Friday morning

CDOT crews worked Thursday to clear three small debris slides in the Glenwood Canyon after a day of rain.
CDOT courtesy photo

Despite recording more than 3 inches of rain in some areas since Wednesday afternoon, the Colorado Department of Transportation opened Interstate 70 early Friday morning.

“Crews cleared a couple more small material slides at mile points 120.6, 120.7 WB and 130 EB between 2:45-4:45 a.m. today but have now reopened the canyon,” according to an update sent just after 5 a.m. Friday.

CDOT officials will monitor Friday’s weather forecasts and will go back into a safety closure should the National Weather Service issue a flash flood warning.

Motorists should plan for slower speeds and congestion through the canyon, especially at MP 123.5 where traffic is in the temporary one lane configuration, according to CDOT. The westbound lane closure is a half-mile long and eastbound is 1.5 miles.

Late Thursday night, CDOT said crews were “encouraged by how well the canyon landscape weathered over 3 inches of rain that fell over a 24-hour period.” CDOT crews worked Thursday to clear up three small debris slides in the canyon.

“Rain gauges throughout the area measured over three inches of rain in several locations,” according to the Thursday night update. “CDOT will continue to follow the same standard traffic safety and detour procedures that have been in place during the previous closure as forecasts dictate. The repairs in Glenwood Canyon have held up through this weather event so far.”

CDOT originally closed I-70 in both directions through Glenwood Canyon at mile points 133 (Dotsero) and MP 116 (Glenwood Springs) at 4:20 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 18, due to a flash flood warning.

This is a developing story that will be updated.

UPDATE: I-70 reopens through Glenwood Canyon

UPDATE 5:29 P.M. SUNDAY, AUG. 15: Interstate 70 is once again open through Glenwood Canyon, a Garfield County alert states.

Interstate 70 was closed in both directions between Glenwood Springs and Dotsero, a Garfield County alert sent out shortly before 5 p.m. stated.

“I-70 is closed between mile markers 116 to the 133 both directions, Glenwood Canyon, due to a safety closure,” the release stated.

The closure comes less than two days after the interstate reopened following the longest closure in history due to mud slides in late July.

‘Hats off’ to CDOT: I-70 reopening through Glenwood Canyon met with appreciation

Traffic uses the eastbound lane of Interstate 70, which reopened to traffic Saturday morning.
Ray K. Erku / Post Independent

Hundreds of thousands of combined man hours, millions in emergency federal funding and 16 days later, the diligent crews deployed by the Colorado Department of Transportation reopened Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon on Saturday morning.

“If I could do flips, I would,” Visit Colorado Director of Tourism Lisa Langer said.

Mountain goats graze on top of a debris flow near Interstate 70 in Glenwood Canyon.
Ray K. Erku / Post Independent

Good news

Gov. Jared Polis said this past week that he wanted the roadway open by Saturday afternoon, but CDOT crews finished their work hours earlier than expected. Around 7:30 a.m. Saturday, the announcement was made that traffic would open to one lane, both ways.

CDOT officials said mitigation and reconstruction efforts would continue over the next three months, with the goal of being finished by Thanksgiving. The speed limit through Blue Gulch between Dotsero and Glenwood Canyon is now reduced to 35 mph until that work is completed.

Debris amassed right up to the bottom of a railway bridge in Glenwood Canyon.
Ray K. Erku / Post Independent

“Our team has worked tirelessly to get Glenwood Canyon on I-70 opened as soon as possible and we have made each minute count. I’m thrilled that we are delivering a few hours ahead of schedule. Every moment counts,” Polis said in a Saturday news release. “I want to thank (CDOT Executive Director) Shoshana Lew for her leadership on this effort as CDOT has worked day and night to safely clear a path. It has been an all-hands-on-deck effort to get the canyon reopened from the mudslides, which covered parts of the highway with 15 feet of rock and sludge.”

How the closures began

The stretch of I-70 between Dotsero and Glenwood Springs initially closed July 29, after unprecedented monsoonal rains showered between 2 to 4 inches in about an hour throughout Glenwood Canyon.

This caused substantial debris flows stemming from the Grizzly Creek burn scar to envelop sections of both eastbound and westbound lanes on I-70.

Water from the Colorado River in Glenwood Canyon sits still after debris flows dammed up parts of the river.
Ray K. Erku / Post Independent

Not only did the July 29 rain cause major infrastructural damage, a surge of heavy mud, rock and loose earth initially trapped more than 100 motorists either in the Hanging Lake Tunnels area or in the nearby Bair Ranch exit. Everyone was eventually evacuated by CDOT crews, with the assistance of Colorado Highway Patrol.

Even more rain in the closing days of July brought torrential debris slides down through Blue Gulch, causing significant damage to the roadway and prolonging the closure.

Community impacts

Glenwood Springs’ tourism economy was hard hit as a result.

“We heard mostly from lodges that their reservations dropped by 50%. And then we heard from restaurants that were 25% to 30% down,” Langer said. “And then we started hearing about supply chain issues. Restaurants that expected an order to come in a week, now it’s going to be two weeks.”

Traffic issues ensued on alternate routes, like Cottonwood and Independence passes. Meanwhile, motorists were also told to circumvent the Glenwood Canyon closure by heading north through Steamboat Springs and Craig and eventually south to Rifle.

The aftermath of a mudslide beside the westbound lane of Interstate 70 in Glenwood Canyon.
Ray K. Erku / Post Independent

To help boost local business, Langer said Visit Glenwood started offering motorists who bucked up and consciously sacrificed a few more hours by taking the northern detour “cash for gas receipts.” Anyone who produced a receipt from their gas purchase was in exchange given $25 in Glenwood Gold, local currency that can be used at various locations throughout the community.

“We came back up to about 70% occupancy from where we had dropped to 50% over that first weekend,” Langer said. Yeah, we really, really did rally pretty well. Communication got out there pretty quick.”

Anticipating good news Saturday, Glenwood Caverns spokesperson Sarah O’Connor-Guffey said the canyon reopening offered local businesses a new hope.

“We are hopeful to see how the one-lane reopening in the canyon goes. It’s the perfect time for families to come see us for last-minute vacations right before the school year starts,” she said in an email Friday. “We’ve been seeing lower admission rates since the canyon was closed, so to be able to get as many guests to Glenwood Springs for a soak or a day full of fun at the park will not just benefit us, but the rest of our community too.”

Debris filling a large swath of land just north of Interstate 70 in Glenwood Canyon.
Ray K. Erku / Post Independent

Glenwood Springs Mayor Jonathan Godes said the closure had a trickle-down effect throughout the community in both relation to commerce and critical access for traffic.

“People have doctors on either side of the canyon, people commute to work on either side of the canyon,” he said. “We are more interrelated with our Vail Valley brethren than we probably have ever been economically in the history of Glenwood Springs.”

A debris flow south of Interstate 70 in Glenwood Canyon.
Ray K. Erku / Post Independent

When Godes joined Rep. Lauren Boebert and Garfield County Commissioner Tom Jankovsky toured the canyon Wednesday, he said it was like CDOT “moved mountains.”

“The ripped-out tension cables. … Blue Gulch is like Blue Canyon now,” he said. “The redirected river that is really narrow and has some pretty interesting rapids and spots. … Those are all incredibly interesting, and I think they would be to anybody.”

A truck drives on newly reopened Interstate 70 in Glenwood Canyon.
Ray K. Erku / Post Independent

More work to be done

Yet even as the road reopens to traffic, it’s still a long way before it will be back to normal in the canyon. CDOT Chief Engineer Stephen Harelson estimated in Aug. 8 letters sent to the U.S. Federal Highway Administration, which include assessment surveys and requests for funding, that I-70 has so far sustained an estimated $116 million in infrastructural damages. Final estimations won’t be available until eight to 10 weeks from now.

Harelson stated that “at least 19 separate debris flow events” have been recorded in Glenwood Canyon between June 26 and Aug. 3. Meanwhile, flash flood warnings alone caused CDOT officials to close I-70 in Glenwood Canyon 12 times between June 26 and July 28.

The railing of the eastbound lane of Interstate 70 near Grizzly Creek in Glenwood Canyon covered in mud.
Ray K. Erku / Post Independent

In addition to mitigation and repair efforts on I-70, CDOT said alternate routes such as Cottonwood Pass will also likely require $50 million for improvements to withstand heavier traffic while also providing resiliency.

“We know that the longer-term repairs will take time and that, as we battle new challenges to our infrastructure with climate change, alternative routes for the I-70 corridor become more urgent,” Polis stated in Saturday’s news release. “Our administration is focused on the short, medium, and long term response and recovery from this incident.”

Traffic once again flowing both ways on Interstate 70 in Glenwood Canyon.
Ray K. Erku / Post Independent

Harelson stated that in addition to the immediate roadway damage the debris flows have severely impacted the Colorado River.

“There are approximately five locations where debris flows have severely obstructed the river flow at this time,” he writes. “At several locations the debris deposited in the river has created river wide obstructions raising the river water level over the multi-use recreational path and threatening the eastbound I-70 retaining walls and multi-use recreational path with increased scour and damage.”

Signs thanking the Colorado Department of Transportation and their mitigation efforts in relation to Interstate 70 posted near the main Glenwood Springs exit.
Ray K. Erku / Post Independent

But on Saturday, the challenges to come felt a little lighter — and more so served as a reminder of CDOT’s hard work to reopen the road.

“I mean, they worked shifts like you can’t believe. I have a friend who works for CDOT — he was working 12 hour shifts,” Langer said. “They were working ’til they dropped, basically, and hats off to CDOT.”

Some CDOT workers out on Interstate 70 in Glenwood Canyon.
Ray K. Erku / Post Independent

Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or rerku@postindependent.com

I-70 reopens through Glenwood Canyon

Gov. Polis announces an “ahead of schedule” reopening for the interstate

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis looks at a map of drainages inside Glenwood Canyon created by the White River National Forest Service while touring the debris slide damage to Interstate 70 on Wednesday morning. Polis announced the reopening of I-70 on Saturday morning, Aug. 14.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon is now open, Gov. Jared Polis announced in a news release around 7:30 a.m. Saturday.

“Our team has worked tirelessly to get Glenwood Canyon on I-70 opened as soon as possible, and we have made each minute count. I’m thrilled that we are delivering a few hours ahead of schedule. Every moment counts. I want to thank Shoshana Lew for her leadership on this effort as CDOT has worked day and night to safely clear a path. It has been an all-hands-on-deck effort to get the canyon reopened from the mudslides which covered parts of the highway with 15 feet of rock and sludge,” Polis said.

The stretch of I-70 between Dotsero and Glenwood Springs initially closed July 29 after unprecedented monsoonal rains showered between 2 to 4 inches in about an hour throughout Glenwood Canyon.

This caused substantial debris flows stemming from the Grizzly Creek burn scar to envelope sections of both eastbound and westbound lanes on I-70.

Not only did the July 29 rain cause major infrastructural damage, a surge of heavy mud, rock and loose earth initially trapped more than 100 motorists either in the Hanging Lake Tunnels area or in the nearby Bair Ranch exit. Everyone was eventually evacuated by CDOT crews with the assistance of Colorado Highway Patrol.

“A similar rainfall event occurred overnight between Saturday, July 31 and Sunday Aug. 1, 2021. I-70 has been closed since the first of these two major storm events on July 29,” CDOT Chief Engineer Stephen Harelson wrote in Aug. 8 letters sent to the U.S. Federal Highway Administration, which included assessment surveys and requests for funding. “The slides that closed the road earlier in July inundated the facility with mud but did only moderate damage to the infrastructure. The storms of July 29, 2021 and Aug. 1, 2021 caused considerable damage to at least four discrete structures in the Canyon and possibly more that will only be known when the debris is removed from the affected areas.”

The monumental disaster is considered by National Weather Service officials to be a 500-year event.

“At the Blue Gulch drainage, Westbound I-70 experienced the loss of the uphill barrier, culvert inlet drop structure, post tensioned slab overhang, parapet and structure rail,” Harelson wrote. “In some areas, the post tensioned slab is intact but the parapet has been removed and the post tensioned strands are compromised.”

Initial estimates put the cost of repairs at $116 million — which Gov. Jared Polis requested on Aug. 6 from the federal government. That amount, Harelson writes, could change in the weeks to come.

“We are performing damage assessments throughout the area,” Harelson writes. “At this time it is not possible to provide exact cost estimates, however, damage to Federal-aid highways is currently estimated at $116 million. CDOT expects to be able to provide a more accurate estimate in 8-10 weeks.”

The catastrophe marked one of many debris flows to have occurred in Glenwood Canyon throughout the summer.

Harelson stated that “at least 19 separate debris flow events” have been recorded in Glenwood Canyon between June 26 and Aug. 3. Meanwhile, flash flood warnings alone caused CDOT officials to close I-70 in Glenwood Canyon 12 times between June 26 and July 28.

In addition to mitigation and repair efforts on I-70, CDOT said alternate routes such as Cottonwood Pass will also likely require $50 million for improvements to withstand heavier traffic while also providing resiliency.

“In addition to the immediate roadway damage, the debris flows have severely impacted the Colorado River. There are approximately five locations where debris flows have severely obstructed the river flow at this time,” Harelson stated. “At several locations, the debris deposited in the river has created river-wide obstructions raising the river water level over the multi-use recreational path and threatening the eastbound I-70 retaining walls and multi-use recreational path with increased scour and damage.”

ESTIMATED COSTS FOR DEBRIS FLOW MITIGATION

● CDOT administration (non-maintenance staff) costs = $1 million

● Debris removal costs (includes maintenance staff costs) = $4 million

● Supplemental traffic control services (contractor) costs = $1 million

● Visible damage estimates caused by event damage or debris removal hauling costs = $20 million

● Assumed damage repair estimates (non-visible) costs = $20 million

● Potential geohazard mitigation at several locations = $5 million

● Construction Management and Construction Engineering costs = $5 million

● Impacts to existing State Highway alternate routes (as a result of I-70 closure) costs = $10 million

● Future Resiliency and Redundancy Study costs = $50 million

 

Boebert, local reps get peek at Glenwood Canyon damage following governor’s visit

CDOT crews continue working at the Blue Gulch drainage near MM 123.5 in Glenwood Canyon on Wednesday morning.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

The Western Slope’s lone representative in Congress, Lauren Boebert, was joined by local and state elected officials on a coattail tour of the mud-slide damage in Glenwood Canyon following Gov. Jared Polis’ Wednesday visit and announcement that Interstate 70 is on track for a partial reopening Saturday.

Also part of the tour were Glenwood Springs Mayor Jonathan Godes; Garfield County Commissioner Tom Jankovsky, Colorado State Rep. Janice Rich, R-Grand Junction; and state Sen. Ray Scott, R-Grand Junction.

Joining the delegation were Colorado Department of Transportation Executive Director Shoshana Lew, Colorado Department of Transportation Regional Commissioner Cathy Hall and a number of CDOT and U.S. Forest Service officials.

CDOT officials said in a Thursday update that crews are on schedule to open one lane in each direction by sometime Saturday.

“The National Weather Service is currently calling for possible precipitation on Friday, so the reopening timeline could be impacted,” CDOT said in the release.

Boebert offered her thanks to the crews that have been working nearly nonstop for the past 14 days to clear the debris, assess the damage and make the initial repairs to get I-70 reopened.

“I am grateful to all the contractors and CDOT employees who are working around the clock to reopen this critical artery for Western Colorado and the West,” Boebert said in a statement issued through her press office after the tour.

“Having an opportunity to see this catastrophic disaster firsthand has reinforced the severity of this event and the need for long-term resiliency,” Boebert said.

Boebert reiterated her support as part of the bipartisan and bicameral Colorado congressional delegation for federal emergency assistance to pay for the highway repairs and long-term mitigation and resiliency efforts.

In addition to the $116 million request through the Federal Highway Administration’s Emergency Relief Program, the congresswoman is also prepared to support a request for Federal Emergency Management Administration funds, Boebert’s communications director, Ben Stout, said Thursday.

“At this point, CDOT crews still need to get through all the mud and debris to see the extent of the road destruction in the canyon,” Stout said. “We need a dollar amount before we can request those funds.”

Stout applauded news that crews are on track to have the cleanup and repairs to a point where I-70 can be open at least one lane in each direction through Glenwood Canyon by Saturday afternoon.

“Getting one lane open on Saturday is a good start, but it can’t be fixed and reopened fully soon enough,” he said.

It’s now the longest extended closure of the interstate through Glenwood Canyon since the I-70 project was completed in 1993, surpassing the 13-day closure during the initial days of the 2020 Grizzly Creek Fire that burned more than 32,000 acres in and above the canyon.

The interstate was closed the night of July 29 due to major mud and debris flows triggered by torrential rains over the burn scar that covered all four lanes of the interstate in areas.

More than 100 travelers were trapped on the highway or holed up in the Hanging Lake Tunnels and at Bair Ranch overnight until they could be rescued.

Additional rains throughout the following weekend brought even more mud and debris from the unstable canyon slopes down onto the highway, as well as the Union Pacific Railroad, the recreational path and the Colorado River. The railroad has since reopened to freight and Amtrak passenger service.

Jankovsky said after getting a look at the aftermath in the canyon on Wednesday that he’s skeptical about a Saturday reopening, especially if the area receives additional rain.

“I’m afraid the governor’s announcement that it will be open by Saturday is a little premature,” Jankovsky said. “That puts a lot of pressure on CDOT to get to that point … maybe the first of the week.”

Jankovsky called the slide that took place in Blue Gulch at mile point 123.5 in the canyon that ripped through the westbound barrier wall and put a 15-foot hole in the eastbound roadway a “colossal” event.

“I can see why they’re calling that a 500-year event,” he said. “It took a swath out of that mountainside, top to bottom of the canyon.

“It gives you a good idea how the canyon was created when you look at that.”

On Wednesday, CDOT crews completed work to place 156 “super sacks” (large, 1.5-ton sand bags) with a crane at the base of Blue Gulch to act as rockfall protection once the highway reopens.

CDOT said in its Thursday update that all the necessary traffic control barriers have been delivered, and paving operations in the damaged eastbound lanes is to begin on Friday.

Once I-70 is reopened through the canyon the plan is for eastbound at mile point 123.5 to be one lane in each direction for about a three-quarter-mile stretch.

The Grizzly Creek, Hanging Lake and Bair Ranch rest areas are to remain closed, and the Hanging Lake Trail will also remain closed until the U.S. Forest Service is able to clear any debris that came down on the trail, CDOT said.

The No Name and Shoshone rest areas are slated to reopen when I-70 opens.

Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or jstroud@postindependent.com.

Glenwood Canyon assessment sets course for limited I-70 reopening

An ongoing assessment of the damage to Interstate 70 in Glenwood Canyon lays the path for what needs to be accomplished before the roadway can be reopened.

Also Tuesday, Colorado’s Congressional delegation and Gov. Jared Polis received word that $11.6 million in initial emergency assistance funds have been released by the Federal Highway Administration to expedite repairs in the canyon. The amount represents 10% of the total $116 million that was formally requested on Monday.

According to a Tuesday update from the Colorado Department of Transportation, engineering teams were able to conduct in-depth assessments of roadway damage at mile point 123.5 (Blue Gulch) after substantial progress was made over the weekend and Monday to remove material from the late July mud and debris slides.

CDOT Director Shoshana Lew and Region 3 Director Mike Goolsby both said Tuesday afternoon during a joint meeting between the Garfield and Eagle county commissioners that it’s likely a matter of “days, not weeks” before Glenwood Canyon could reopen to at least one lane in both directions. That will depend on weather and other factors related to the ongoing cleanup efforts and damage assessments, Goolsby said.

“Overall, CDOT believes that the roadway infrastructure can accommodate reopening westbound I-70 to one lane after additional slide material is removed and temporary barriers, rockfall protection and other roadway safety devices are installed to safely temporarily re-open westbound with lane restrictions,” according to the Tuesday update issued by CDOT. “This confirmation will help expedite the temporary westbound I-70 reopening timeline.”

Engineering teams were also able to verify that the eastbound roadway infrastructure can accommodate reopening to one lane, “after approximately 100 feet of roadway embankment and temporary asphalt pavement is reconstructed, along with the necessary roadway safety devices,” CDOT states.

Crews are conducting additional inspections Tuesday at Blue Gulch to determine how soon that can happen.

I-70 through Glenwood Canyon remains closed indefinitely in both directions after major mud and debris flows from the Grizzly Creek burn scar impacted the highway in several locations the nights of July 29 and 31.

CDOT is also coordinating with Xcel Energy about repairs to its electric power infrastructure that was impacted, including a high voltage line that provides service to CDOT’s Hanging Lake Tunnels and other major Xcel facilities within Glenwood Canyon.

“CDOT was able to re-establish power to the Hanging Lake Tunnels via a redundant feed from Holy Cross Energy,” CDOT states in the Tuesday release.

On Monday, CDOT crews removed 195 loads (more than 2,500 tons) of slide material, including mud, rocks and trees and hauled it to dump sites on either end of Glenwood Canyon, and to another dump site along Colorado Highway 82 near Aspen Glen.

Of that total, 120 loads of debris came from the east end of the canyon between the Hanging Lake Tunnel and Bair Ranch, and 75 loads came from the Blue Gulch area between Grizzly Creek and Hanging Lake.

CDOT crews work to fill “super sacks” — essentially large sand bags — to place along sections of Interstate 70 in Glenwood Canyon to protect against future debris flows once the highway reopens.
CDOT courtesy photo

Crews also cleaned for the second time an 8-by-12 foot box culvert at Ty Gulch (MP 129.8).

Crews working the west side of the canyon are also working to expose a buried box culvert and on Wednesday expect to place 60 “super sacks” — bags of bedding sand — on the north side of the roadway to help protect against future debris flows in that area.

Gov. Polis issued a statement Tuesday after receiving word of the initial federal assistance funds.

“We are thrilled to have such close coordination with our federal partners to ensure federal resources are quickly on their way to Colorado,” Polis said. “Crews and staff across state government are working in all-hands-on-deck mode to deal with the devastating damage to Glenwood Canyon and I-70, and having the same level of support from federal partners at the Federal Highway Administration ensures we can keep working at a rapid pace to restore this economic and recreation highway.”

Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or jstroud@postindependent.com.