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Canyon crack is coming together

April E. Clark
Vail, CO Colorado
Kelley Cox/Post IndependentJoe Elsen, department of transportation program engineer, explains the current situation with the crack in the ceiling of the eastbound bore of the Glenwood Canyon tunnel.
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GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” When Gary Coffey was growing up in the ’70s and ’80s, he and his family would drive through Glenwood Canyon on their way to Lake Powell in Utah.

Decades later, Coffey is the superintendent for Concrete Works of Colorado, which the Colorado Department of Transportation contracted to repair the 70-foot-long crack in the concrete above the Hanging Lake Tunnel.

“I’ve driven this tunnel since I was a kid, and I wanted to work on this project back when they were building the interstate,” said Coffey, of Lakewood. “I love structures. I watched this thing being built from start to finish.”



Joe Elsen ” a program engineer for the department of transportation who is overseeing the design and construction of the repair ” also has a vested interest in the repairs. He worked 11 years on the tunnel during the Interstate 70 construction project that was formally dedicated on Oct. 14, 1992.

“I started in the spring of ’83 working on this thing,” he said. “I did surveying, inspection, and was a project engineer.”



Federal Highway Administration discovered the crack during an inspection in 2006, prompting Elsen, the state and a crew of designers and geologists to devise a repair during the winter that was officially put into place in March. A rockslide in January 2002 near the Hanging Lake Tunnel contributed to the crack, Elsen said.

“It’s important to note this is a very unique situation,” he said. “And a very complicated structure. We take our work very seriously ” that facility is manned 24-7.”

The tunnel’s eastbound lanes were closed on March 30, and Concrete Works of Colorado began repairs in April. Traffic has been diverted to the westbound lanes through the tunnel.



“I don’t think the thing could have gone any quicker,” Elsen said. “It’s been a really good project, and it’s been very tight scheduling so it remains safe.”

The crack is being repaired with two large slabs of concrete ” one above the crack and the other below ” connected by steel bars through more than 800 holes drilled through the affected slab.

“This whole slab weighs three million pounds, with 25 million pounds of earth on top of that,” said Elsen, inspecting the repair from below the crack. “We’re sandwiching the fracture.”

The total cost of the project is estimated around $4.6 million. The tunnel due to be open to traffic on Oct. 1

“Our maintenance people said, ‘You better be done before the snow flies,'” Elsen said. “It gets extremely complicated when the snow flies.”


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