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Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon opened up to two-way, round-the-clock traffic Thursday evening after being closed for more than a week due to a massive rock slide.
The highway had been open at night only with one lane of alternating traffic for several days while crews worked to clear huge boulders from the roadway and secure loose rocks higher up the slopes.
Here’s the full press release from the Colorado Department of Transportation on Thursday:
GARFIELD COUNTY – Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon opened up to two-way travel at 4 p.m. Thursday. A pace car in each direction will lead traffic to maintain a safe speed as motorists travel through the canyon on the eastbound lanes in a head-to-head configuration. Traffic volumes have been running high in the morning and evenings during the current single-lane pilot car configuration, but are expected to ease up as motorists will now be able to travel through the canyon throughout the day.
UPDATED TRAVEL IMPACTS – Rockfall mitigation will continue during the day, with equipment being staged in westbound lanes and equipment being flown to the mountainside via helicopter. Motorists in both directions can expect periodic traffic holds as necessary, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., seven days a week. From 4 p.m. to 9 a.m., the two-way pilot car operation will continue unimpeded. A 10-foot width restriction remains in place 24/7. Please note: motorists should continue to follow CDOT’s traveler information site at www.cotrip.org for updates to this schedule and notifications on any changes that may be necessary to facilitate the work.
“We’re hopeful that by opening the highway to 24/7 two-way travel, we will see an easing in the congestion that has been present during the single-lane configuration,” CDOT Region 3 Transportation Director David Eller said. “It’s important travelers understand that–just like any other construction project with traffic control–there will still be delays, some possibly exceeding an hour during peak travel times. The reason we still need to control traffic with pilot cars is safety. We want to keep speeds low in this head-to-head configuration, and we need to be able to hold traffic when necessary to continue our work. When winter comes back to the canyon, we’ll also need to run snow plows without the hindrance of cones or other delineation in the middle of the road.”
PACE CAR OPERATIONS: Eastbound traffic is slow rolled in the one-lane configuration starting at Exit 116 (Glenwood Springs) all the way to Grizzly Creek rest area where a flagger is present and a pace car picks up traffic. Westbound is slow rolled into one-lane starting at Exit 129 (Bair Ranch) all the way to the east side of the Hanging Lake Tunnel bore (also manned by a flagger) where vehicles will be picked up by the pace car and escorted through. The pace car operation is manned by Colorado State Patrol and traffic control. At any time, four-six pace cars will be escorting cars through. The pace cars will be used to control the speed and flow of traffic through the restricted area, but in this configuration volumes should clear more efficiently. Delays of up to an hour or more should still be expected in this configuration. Updates will continue to be posted on CDOT’s traveler information site at www.cotrip.org and recorded on the 511 phone line.
The Grizzly Creek, Hanging Lake and Shoshone rest areas will be closed for the duration of this head-to-head pace car 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.)
ALTERNATE ROUTES/TRAFFIC IMPACTS:
Front Range motorists/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
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.
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.)
Cottonwood Pass in Eagle County and Independence Pass are both closed and not available as alternate routes. Frying Pan Road and Hagerman Pass are not recommended alternate routes.
BUSTANG SERVICE to and from Glenwood Springs has resumed. Adjustments to the arrival and departure times from Glenwood Springs will be required due to the pace car operation. The times will be posted early this week at www.ridebustang.com.
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.