Rockslide punches hole in I-70
GLENWOOD CANYON – Motorists might want to keep a close watch upward when they drive through Glenwood Canyon. A boulder punched a hole in the eastbound lanes of Interstate 70 west of the Hanging Lake Tunnel on Sunday, closing one lane indefinitely. About eight two-ton boulders fell onto the interstate Sunday morning at mile post 124.9, closing one lane in each direction for several hours. The rocks blocking westbound traffic were removed quickly and the damage there was minimal, said Colorado Department of Transportation spokeswoman Nancy Shanks. One larger rock landed on the outer eastbound lane, punching a hole completely through the bridge deck four feet long and three feet wide. The rock bounced into the Colorado River below the freeway. There were no injuries in the rockslide and no vehicles were damaged. The outer eastbound lane is closed until the hole is repaired. All other lanes are open to traffic. Sunday’s rockslide was several hundred yards west of the site of the much larger Thanksgiving 2004 slide, which closed the freeway for more than a day, Shanks said. “This one’s a tenth of the scale” of the 2004 slide, said Joe Elsen, a CDOT program engineer based in Glenwood Springs. Shanks said CDOT officials were working on a repair design on Monday, but because it was a holiday, the design could not be approved and money for the repairs could not be requested until at least Tuesday. Approximately 20 yards of concrete barrier and steel bridge railing need to be repaired in addition to the bridge deck, she said. Repairs, she said, would cost between $75,000 and $100,000, money that CDOT plans to request from the Transportation Commission Contingency Fund, which makes money available for emergency highway repairs. Shanks said it could take about a month or longer to make the repairs depending on how long it takes CDOT to secure a contractor, which could take some time. If the state determines that the highway damage isn’t enough of an emergency to require emergency money to make repairs, the hole could remain in the road and the lane could be closed for an extended period, she said. Besides monitoring rock stability along state roadways, CDOT has done all it can do to prevent rock slides, she said, adding that such slides, like avalanches, are a fact of life in Colorado. “These are the Rocky Mountains and we are going to experience rock fall in this area,” she said.