I-70 to see 30 minute closures in Dowd Junction starting Monday | VailDaily.com

I-70 to see 30 minute closures in Dowd Junction starting Monday

Cyclists are also subject to the closures

Cars sit on I-70 near mile marker 176 in Vail on Monday afternoon. Colorado Department of Transportation crews are doing work to clean up a rockfall zone between West Vail and Dowd Junction.
Nate Peterson | npeterson@vaildaily.com

Gore Creek will be the only passageway through Dowd Junction that isn’t subject to closures next week.

I-70 in both directions, as well as the bike path, will experience 30-minute shutdowns from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. starting Monday.

Recent rockfall in the area between exits 173 and 171 revealed a need for mitigation to take place on the hillside above the highway, said Bob Wilson with the Colorado Department of Transportation, and the possibility of more rockfall occurring during that work necessitates the shutdown of the highway and the bike path.

The 30-minute stops will occur on both sides of the highway and the bike path simultaneously. The clock will start, the cars will line up, and as soon as the timer for 30 minutes goes off, traffic is allowed through.

“Once the queue clears, then we stop traffic again, and it starts all over,” Wilson said. “The first car waits 30, the last car may only have to wait about a minute. It’s a roll of the dice.”

Problem area

While rockfall is not uncommon in Dowd Junction, the most recent event was not part of a freeze and thaw cycle that often prompts incidents in the spring and fall.

This time, the same rain event that caused record-high creek flows and flooding in Eagle County also prompted a rockslide incident in Dowd Junction on July 1.

Crews got to work cleaning it up and were successful in doing so, reporting everything clear on Wednesday. But as those crews were working to clear rocks from the side of the highway, experts were examining the steep slopes above the area, and a controlled removal of a rock formation above the highway has been identified as the best course of action in avoiding another rockfall incident in the area.

“They’re going to be knocking rocks down, and so we can’t take a chance of an errant rock going a little further than into the ditch,” Wilson said. “If it gets a little errant, goes a little further, it could land in the eastbound side of I-70 or the bike path that runs parallel.”

Resurfacing project also underway

At the same time, a $10 million asphalt resurfacing project is underway on the 8-mile stretch of I-70 between Vail and Avon.

This week that project was taking place in, you guessed it, Dowd Junction, not far from the area where rock removal efforts were underway. The two projects created a perfect storm of traffic issues, backing vehicles up into Vail and catching a dump truck off guard. The driver couldn’t slow down and veered off the highway into the median, shutting the westbound lanes down altogether.

By Wednesday, traffic was back to normal.

Wilson said next week’s work is planned through Thursday, but could last longer.

“We don’t know yet, just because we have to see the amount of rock that we need to bring down off the hillside,” he said.

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