Section of Interstate 70 closed after explosion exexplosionkilled
DENVER – If it’s not terrain or weather that makes Interstate 70 one of the most complex road upkeeps in the country, its the sheer amount of traffic on the state’s primary east-west corridor.On Wednesday, two people were killed and a bridge was heavily damaged when a tractor-trailer truck carrying chemicals crashed and exploded in Grand Junction.”We have a lot more traffic on I-70,” Stacey Stegman, spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Transportation. “The amount of traffic you deal with, the more incidents’ you’ll have, semis get spun out and problems related to that.”The truck, carrying 55-gallon drums of sodium hypochlorite, was westbound when it crashed around 2:45 a.m., police said. It careened to the right and destroyed about 75 feet of guardrail before it knocked out one of the bridge’s six supports – forcing the road’s closure for at least 10 hours.State highway engineers arrived Wednesday afternoon to assess the damage and determine when the interstate can be reopened.The accident marks at least the third time Interstate 70, which carries tens of thousands of vehicles a day through long tunnels, along narrow canyons and across roaring waterways, was shutdown this year.Road closures are not uncommon on state highways and county roads in winter months, when snow covers much of the state. Some interstate travelers are re-routed during heavy snowfall. That makes upkeep a constant battle, Stegman said.”It’s a combination of things. The fall freeze is very hard on pavement,” Stegman said. “The other issue we have to contend with is just the geologic hazards like rock slides and avalanches. We have to design for whatever standards there are.”Those standards aren’t neccessarily worse on the Western Slope, but the geological hazards and physical landscape of the Rocky Mountains make things more complicated than they seem, Stegman said.The Hanging Lake Tunnel near Glenwood Springs developed a 70-foot-crack. The Eisenhower Tunnel near Dillon, Colo., was intermittenly shutdown earlier in August after a power outage temporarily killed exhaust fans. Both tunnels are along the I-70 route.Interstate 70 stretches from central Utah, across the country all the way to Baltimore, making it one of the country’s longest – and complex – highways.The design of the elevated, stacked highways on I-70 near Glenwood Canyon, Colo., was the last stretch of interstate in the country to be made into four lanes.The Hanging Lake Tunnel’s eastbound lane has been closed since late March because of a crack in the concrete above the tunnel. The nearly five-foot thick slab above the eastbound tunnel concerned CDOT enough to filter traffic through the westbound lane only.Stegman said the tunnel is expected to open back up to full traffic in October. There is no timetable for the reopening of the westbound lane of I-70 near Grand Junction.