Two lanes of I-70 reopened |

Two lanes of I-70 reopened

Staff Reports

After a roller-coaster day of openings and closing Wednesday, June 4, Interstate 70 is finally open again over Vail Pass.Two lanes (one in each direction for a 1.5-mile stretch) reopened at 4 p.m., Wednesday after first reopening at 3 a.m. and then a shut down again at 10 a.m. when a dip developed in the eastbound lanes near a sinkhole in the westbound lanes.Torrential rains Saturday night and into Sunday morning (May 31-June 1) sent Bighorn Creek surging into an overwhelmed culvert under I-70, then down into East Vail, flooding several homes and shutting down the highway with a massive sinkhole.Colorado Department of Transportation officials say it will take about two weeks to fix the westbound lanes and have all four lanes up and running.”Right now we don’t know,” CDOT spokesman Bob Wilson said Thursday, June 5. “We’re hoping to have those lanes opened again in about two weeks, but right now it’s up in the air.”If we go through two or three days of rain up there, that can throw the schedule completely off. But once we get in there and start laying new pipe and building a new roadway across the culvert, then we’ll be able to at least zero in on an more specific opening of the roadway; until then we’re still just throwing darts.”Emergency crews at 5 a.m. Monday, June 2 declared flooding in East Vail had been contained after a berm was built to divert water back into Bighorn Creek.Later that morning, approximately 400 residents of a 200-acre area of East Vail were allowed to return to their homes after being evacuated at 6 p.m., Sunday. An emergency shelter had been set up Sunday night at Red Sandstone Elementary School in Vail.Several homes sustained water damage, but officials said there were no injuries as a result of Sunday’s severe flooding, which was complicated by abundant spring runoff.While early June is a slow time for tourism in the Vail area, the closure of I-70 has had enormous implications for interstate transportation, particularly trucking, and in-state travelers trying to get from Denver into the mountains or vice versa.”The interstate traffic, basically what they’re doing is taking Interstate 80 through Wyoming or Interstate 40 through New Mexico, but intrastate, the biggest effect is time,” Wilson said, adding that interstate truckers were still being encouraged to avoid I-70.Traffic has reportedly been bumper to bumper on the detour route on Highway 24 through Minturn, over Battle Mountain Pass to Leadville, then Highway 91 over Fremont Pass to Copper Mountain, then east on I-70 to Denver. That route adds 54 miles and at least an hour of travel time. Depending on the level of traffic and time of day the I-70 route should be quicker, Wilson said.Organizers of this weekend’s Teva Mountain Games are hoping for solid crowds despite the highway problems, and they’ve noted how high the water will be for the signature whitewater events.”Our first concern was for the residents of East Vail who were evacuated from their homes,” Joel Heath, president of Untraditional Marketing, said in a release. “Now that the danger from flooding is gone, there have been no injuries and people are back safely in their homes, we can focus on putting on one of this summer’s greatest shows.”– David O. WilliamsTown of Red Cliffofficially off boil orderOn Monday June 2, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment officially lifted the boil order that has had the residents of Red Cliff boiling their water for the last several months.”This is a successful completion of a short-term goal ,” said Red Cliff Mayor Betty Sandoval. “We can now turn our attention to success of the long-term goal of staying off boil orders and getting this all behind us.””We could not accomplish this without the help of the state and Eco-Resources, our licensed operator,” said Guy Patterson, Red Cliff town administrator.To lift the boil order, the Town of Red Cliff was required by the state to accomplish a few tasks, including training of staff, contracting with a licensed operator, and developing communications strategies in case of emergency. During the June 2 meeting in Denver, the state expressed satisfaction with the progress of the town and lifted the boil order.For more information, contact Glen Bodnar with the Technical Services Unit of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment at (303) 692-3548.– Vail Trail staff report

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