Unstable boulders will force I-70 closure at Georgetown Tuesday | VailDaily.com

Unstable boulders will force I-70 closure at Georgetown Tuesday

Special to the DailyThe state Department of Transportation is removing dangerous boulders that are as big as pickup trucks from above Interstate 70 near Georgetown next week. The interstate will be closed at Georgetown in both directions Tuesday, and maybe Wednesday.

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado – You know that rock face just east of Georgetown along I-70? And when you drive by it, you think, “If one of those boulder came down it could ruin someone’s entire day”?

Well, the state Department of Transportation is bringing some down of those boulders, because they don’t want your day ruined, or your life.

Next Tuesday and possibly Wednesday, the Colorado Department of Transportation will close Interstate 70 in both directions to remove big rocks, before the rocks remove themselves and land on the highway below.

The work will begin at 9 a.m. Tuesday, and last all day. If they’re not done, the closure will run Wednesday, said CDOT Regional Transportation Director Tony DeVito. The object is to remove an unstable cluster, which would be a great name for a rock band, except that this unstable cluster is actually dangerous.

Because it’s springtime in the Rockies and snow isn’t the only thing that falls.

“We need to get this done now because it’s the time of year we experience the recurring freeze and thaw along with those wet snows that make the mountainous areas more susceptible to rockfall,” DeVito said.

These boulders could come down on their own, DeVito said, and this is the only way to control when and where they fall.

“When you’re dealing with weathered and deteriorated slope conditions and wedged rocks, there is little predictability,” DeVito said. “We absolutely cannot allow traffic to travel on Georgetown Hill while the work is occurring since falling rock could reach the roadway and break apart even further.”

Yes, they understand that it’s inconvenient, but it’s also necessary, DeVito said.

“There’s never a good time to have a full closure of I-70, especially during the daytime, but we cannot delay this. We would rather be proactive and bring this hazard down in a controlled method than be reactive. We will not risk public safety.”

“We’re doing everything possible to communicate with our guests regarding their various options for arriving at our resorts,” said Jen Brown, communications director for Beaver Creek mountain. “Our hotels and Colorado Mountain Express are contacting all the guests with reservations to let them know we’ll accommodate them.

You can still travel along the I-70 corridor, you just need to be through Georgetown before 9 a.m. and wait to head back down after 5 p.m., Brown said.

They’ll send an email to Colorado pass holders with what might be the perfect solution.

“How about spending the night and making a mid-week stay of it?” Brown said. “There’s no better reason to play hooky and get in a couple extra days, especially with such excellent conditions.”

“It’s a serious situation and we’re going to have to make it work. It’s an impending safety hazard,” said Greg Fulton, president of the Colorado Motor Carriers Association.

It will affect operations, costs and schedules for truckers, Fulton said.

“I-70 is a critical thoroughfare and closing it even for a day makes it very difficult,” Fulton said. “We have only two major east-west cross-country routes, I-70 and I-80, that actually work.”

A trucker has 11 hours a day; after that they have to park. Closing I-70, or a 90-minute detour becomes part of that.

“Walk through Vail and it’s charming, but there’s not much storage. Many of those businesses depend on a truck delivery every day,” Fulton said. “We’re in a point, click and purchase society. People buy something online and two or three days later a truck shows up at your house.”

On March 8, 2010, a rock of serious size fell from the cliffs above Glenwood Canyon, crashing to the bridge below and punching a massive hole in the highway. It closed a 17-mile stretch of highway and forced motorists to detour 200 miles, all the way to Steamboat Springs and around.

It took days to open a single lane of traffic, a couple weeks to get it fixed. It cost around $800,000.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

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