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Glenwood Canyon closure continues as highway officials bring down more huge rocks

February 21, 2016, 8:37 am

Colorado Department of Transportation officials hit another roadblock on Saturday in their efforts to re-open at least one lane of Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon, where a massive rock slide shut down the state’s vital east-west artery on Monday.

After initially predicting a Saturday re-opening, CDOT officials are now saying rock scaling efforts will continue through the weekend but that “end is in site” for the closure that is now coming close to one full week.

Here’s the full press release from CDOT:

CDOT logoGARFIELD COUNTY – CDOT will not implement the Pilot Car escorts Saturday evening. Crews continued to scale several tons of material from the 1000 foot slope today and will be back at daylight to continue the operation.

“We understand that this is a vital artery for Colorado but even today our folks brought rocks down that weigh several tons, said Shailen Bhatt, CDOT Executive Director. “Our team is more confident that the end is in site, but safety is paramount, safety for our crews and safety for the traveling public,” Bhatt said.

“Certainly this is the longest closure that we’ve had for a scaling effort in my experience working on the Western Slope in the last 20 years,” said David Eller, Regional Transportation Director. “The challenge here is that you can only put so many people in the slide zone at a time and proceed safely,” he said. Eller also noted that typically crews don’t scale rocks this big. “For example in the last couple of days we have dislodged four boulders weighing between five and six tons each,” he concluded.

Updates will continue to be posted on CDOT’s traveler information site at and recorded on the 511 phone line.

PILOT CAR CONFIGURATION: Eastbound traffic is routed into one-lane starting at Exit 116 (Glenwood Springs) all the way to Grizzly Creek rest area where the pilot car picks up traffic. The coned off lane is for Colorado State Patrol, emergency services vehicles, law enforcement and CDOT/contractor vehicles as needed.

Westbound is placed into one-lane starting at Exit 129 (Bair Ranch) all the way to the east side of the Hanging Lake Tunnel bore (east side) where vehicles will be configured into the Pilot Car queue.

Expect heavy delays of one hour or more.  The Pilot Car operations are anticipated to last for several days.

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. The Glenwood Canyon Bike Path remains closed as well. (Please note, local traffic coming from the west can travel as far as No Name; local traffic from the east can travel as far as Bair Ranch.)


Front Range motorists heading westbound

US 40 north (Steamboat Springs) west on US 40 (Craig) south to CO 13 (Rifle)

Summit County/westbound motorists

CO 9 (Silverthorne) to US 40 (Steamboat Springs) west on US 40 (Craig) south to CO 13 (Rifle)

Eagle County/westbound motorists

The north alternate route 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.

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.)

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.

Work During Pilot Car Operations:

CDOT will move into permanent rockfall mitigation activities (adding more fencing, addressing additional potential rock fall areas, placing sensors and/or tying back certain rocks).  This work may require additional longer-term closures of the corridor to safely complete. (It is estimated that the damage caused by this rockslide event could range from $2 million to $5 million–updated information regarding this amount, scope of a repair project and funding sources will be provided in later releases when more is known.)

About 30 cubic yards of material came down during the initial natural slides on Monday, February 15, with an additional 160 cubic yards (about 16 loads of rock in a tandem dump truck) brought down by crews in the days since then. The largest rock that came down during the natural slides was the size of an SUV.

Once necessary roadway and roadside repairs are completed to enable head-to-head, two-way travel through the canyon, CDOT will move to open one lane in each direction. After that occurs, it is likely to be several weeks more weeks before the damage to the roadway walls and roadway are repaired and the interstate can fully open to regular traffic operations.

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.

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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