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Clearing of Glenwood Canyon rock slide delayed by weather

Interstate 70 won't re-open until at least Saturday

February 18, 2016, 4:48 pm

High winds and wet weather conspired to delay Interstate 70 repair work and hamper crews clearing the Glenwood Canyon rock slide, delaying the re-opening of the state’s major east-west highway until at least Saturday. Here’s the full press release from the Colorado Department of Transportation:

CDOT logoGARFIELD COUNTY – I-70 is likely to remain closed at least until Saturday, as inclement weather has created delays in crews’ progress bringing additional rocks down onto the highway and restoring safety. Ultimately, the opening time and day will be dependent on CDOT’s ability to complete mitigation and clear the roadway with the current weather conditions. Updates to the schedule will be posted on CDOT’s traveler information site at and recorded on the 511 phone line.

“Because of the weather today, we could not fly a helicopter to bring airbags and tools to the rock face,” CDOT Deputy Maintenance Superintendent T. J. Blake said. “Crews had to haul everything up by hand and that set us back several hours.”

In addition to the challenges the weather is causing for the mitigation progress, it is also creating further movement in the rockfall area that crews are addressing.

“All 160-linear-feet of new fencing will be installed on top of the barrier by tomorrow, helping to capture the smaller rocks,” Blake said. “The roadway has been patched on the eastbound side where we plan to run the pilot car operation; we are continuing our work to bring more rocks–large and small–down from the mountainside with the use of pry bars, airbags and some explosives.”

Some 30 cubic yards came down onto the interstate during the natural rockfall events, with crews expecting to remove an additional 10-15 cubic yards once mitigation is complete.

Crews will also be working to remove the damaged wall and guardrail in the westbound lanes.

Once the mitigation work is complete and the interstate is deemed safe for travel, the pilot car configuration will be set up to direct single-lane, alternating traffic along a six-mile section, with traffic being staged on the east side of Hanging Lake Tunnel and the crossover at the Grizzly Creek rest area further west. The Grizzly Creek, Hanging Lake and Shoshone rest areas will be closed during the duration of the pilot car operation. Bair Ranch (on the east side) and No Name (west side) rest areas will remain open. Motorists should expect at least an hour delay getting through the canyon during the pilot car operation. The Glenwood Canyon Bike Path remains closed as well.

As repairs progress, CDOT will move to open one lane in each direction. It could be several weeks before the damage to the roadway walls and roadway are repaired and the interstate is fully open to regular traffic operations.

TRAFFIC THROUGH THE CANYON – The average daily traffic for Glenwood Canyon is around 300 vehicles per hour. Around the evening of the incident the average traffic was about 150 per hour; the volume starts to drop off significantly after 11:00 p.m. to less than 100 vehicles per hour.

TRAVEL IMPACTS/ALTERNATE ROUTE:  There are two alternate routes, one north of I-70 and one south of I-70.  The north alternate route for for westbound motorists is north on CO 131 at Wolcott to Steamboat Springs, west on US 40 to Craig, then south on CO 13 to Rifle and back to I-70. This is a 203-mile alternate route that will take about three hours and 50 minutes to travel. This detour adds 146 miles and about three hours to a regular trip from Wolcott to Rifle on I-70, which is 67 miles or about 45 minutes. Please always check for roadway conditions before heading out. Cottonwood Pass and Independence Pass are both closed and not available as alternate routes. Frying Pan Road and Hagerman Pass are not recommended alternate routes.

The south alternate route uses US 50.  Access to US 50 is available via Grand Junction for eastbound drivers and for westbound drivers by way of US 24/285 through the Salida area from the Front Range. (Please note, there is construction on US 24 over Trout Creek Pass east of Johnson Village in Chaffee County into early March; some blasting and up to 30-minute delays may be encountered.)

BUSTANG SERVICE:  In addition, the western terminus for Bustang, CDOT’s interregional express bus service to Glenwood Springs, is being temporarily moved to Eagle while I-70 is closed through Glenwood Canyon.  The current arrival and departure times will remain the same.  When I-70 reopens to traffic, Bustang will resume regular service to Glenwood Springs with possible adjustments to the arrival and departure times pending the pilot car impacts.

SIGN UP FOR CDOT ALERTS:  If you are interested in receiving CDOT project and/or lane closure notifications to your email or mobile device, please sign up at and choose the envelope icon at the bottom of the page.

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