Glenwood Springs prepares for summer canyon construction
Driving through Glenwood Canyon will require patience and extra time this summer.
Starting in late March, traffic on Interstate 70 for six miles through the canyon will be diverted into one lane in each direction on the lower, eastbound deck, while crews resurface the westbound lanes.
The single-lane set up will likely last to the end of the project, expected to be complete in October.
“This project will be outside of Glenwood Springs city limits but will certainly impact residents, commuters, and visitors to our region this summer,” said Sarah Derrigan, spokesperson for the City of Glenwood Springs.
But the Department of Transportation says most people they’ve talked to accept that the interstate is in need of extensive repairs.
“Overall, we are hearing from individuals that they understand that this work is important and that it needs completed now,” CDOT spokesperson Elise Thatcher said.
“Here locally and regionally, there is a community understanding that summer in the canyon means ongoing construction work and maintenance improvements in the canyon,” Thatcher said.
CDOT has conducted several community meetings in Glenwood Springs and Gypsum to discuss plans and the expected impacts.
The delays could also affect the Hanging Lake shuttle, but the service will start transporting hikers with permits to the iconic trail from Glenwood Springs beginning in May.
“While delays are expected for all vehicles, including the shuttle, the Hanging Lake partnership has been in communication with CDOT’s project team to ensure an efficient and effective shuttle operation,” said Sarah Derrigan, spokesperson for the City of Glenwood Springs.
The main section of the work, and the head-to-head configuration, will be between No Name Rest Area exit (mile marker 119) and the Hanging Lake tunnel (mile marker 127).
I-70 in that section will be getting a polyester concrete overlay, which CDOT believes will be more durable in harsh conditions, like ice and snow, and even the occasional rockfall.
Detours returning from Shoshone and Grizzly Creek
One of the major inconveniences for recreationists and outfitters, is that when the head-to-head configuration begins, there won’t be a way to return to westbound I-70 from Grizzly Creek or Shoshone.
CDOT hopes to reopen westbound entrances at those places in late June, but until then, people trying to return to Glenwood from those exits will have to travel east and turn around at Bair Ranch.
Another meeting March 16 at Morgridge Commons will discuss impacts on river, hiking, and other recreation in the canyon.
That should reduce the need for annual repairs, and CDOT predicts the new section will have up to a 20-year lifespan.
“By resurfacing with polyester concrete, this area will benefit from a number of positives including a long life cycle, strong live load capacity, and strong tensile strength. It also has low permeability making it less susceptible to potholing due to seepage and freeze-thaw cycles,” according to Thatcher.
CDOT will have both lanes of traffic on one freeway direction, known as head-to-head detours, for the majority of the project.
“However, the direct westbound access from Grizzly and Shoshone is planned to reopen in late-June. In early July, we will see crews shift to the shorter workweek with no head-to-head detour on the weekends,” Thatcher said.
According to CDOT, the busiest times during the weekday are the standard rush hours from 7-10 a.m. and in the evening from 4-7 p.m.
On the weekends, particularly in the summer, traffic picks up on Fridays and is heavy from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
“July and August see the highest traffic volume in the canyon, so that is why we are getting the westbound lanes open on Friday afternoon,” Thatcher said.
To sign up for updates on lane closures, or ask questions, call or text 970-618-5379, or email GlenwoodCanyon2020@gmail.com.