Rockslide closes I-70 through canyon for 8 hours
GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon was closed for eight hours Thursday because of a rockslide just west of the Hanging Lakes tunnels, an area prone to slides.
The Colorado Department of Transportation closed the interstate in both directions between Glenwood Springs and Dotsero after seven 1-ton boulders crashed onto the road at about 7:45 a.m. No vehicles were known to be damaged and no one was hurt.
The westbound lanes, where the rocks fell, were officially closed at 8:22 a.m., followed by a full closure of the interstate at around 10:30 a.m. The road reopened in both directions at about 4:20 p.m.
The north canyon wall continued to lose smaller rocks into the afternoon.
“The slope is still really unstable,” CDOT regional spokeswoman Tracy Trulove said early in the afternoon. “Fortunately, this one didn’t do any major damage to the road deck. If we don’t see much more activity, it looks like it will only need minor repairs.”
‘ERR ON THE SIDE OF CAUTION’
The rockslide came after a soggy night and several weeks of wet weather that have increased slide activity around Colorado.
CDOT crews worked through the day to clear the road and to make sure it was safe through the area. While the rocks hit only the westbound lanes, CDOT closed the road in both directions.
“Especially in an area that sees this much rockfall, we err on the side of caution,” Trulove said, acknowledging the inconvenience for motorists.
Guy Patterson, De Beque’s town manager who commutes there twice a week from Avon, was stopped by the slide in the morning and emailed pictures to the Post Independent.
“I’m wondering if my commute back today will be over Independence or through Meeker,” he said in his email.
Several truckers parked along U.S. Highway 6 in West Glenwood to wait out the closure.
Dana Reynolds, a trucker from New York, was traveling east to Cheyenne, Wyoming, to deliver produce to a Walmart. The main product he was carrying were peppers, including hot peppers.
“It’s only 250 miles, but it’s produce and it’s got to get there tomorrow,” Reynolds said.
He said at the Utah border there was an “alternate route,” which he said wouldn’t really help.
“It’s not worth it to go all the way around. I’m just going to have to wait it out,” he said.
Jeff Szentmartony, of Idaho Falls, was at a West Glenwood convenience store at mid-morning after pulling off of I-70. He was headed home, pulling his camper, after camping at Rifle Falls State Park. He called 511 to see what was going on and heard that the road was closed indefinitely.
“When the rain’s this much, it has a tendency to slide,” Szentmartony said. “It is what it is, I’m not going to get upset about it.”
To get around the backup, he was going to take Independence Pass — an option not open to truckers, who are banned from the pass.
Colorado’s wet spring increased rockfall on the state’s roads, Bob Group, an engineering geologist with the CDOT, told the PI at the end of May.
“We had a lot more than normal” statewide, with some slides covering lanes of travel or whole roads, he said. But, so far, no one has been injured.
This story includes reports from Post Independent staff writers Will Grandbois in Glenwood Canyon and Kelli Rollin and Brett Milam in Glenwood Springs.