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I-70 through Glenwood Canyon closed indefinitely as rail service resumes

August 5, 2021, 12:24 pm
Amtrak’s California Zephyr through Glenwood Canyon (Amtrak photo).

Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon is shut down indefinitely as crews work to clear rocks and mud that closed the only east-west interstate through Colorado on Thursday, but rail service through the precipitous canyon along the Colorado River is set to resume today.

“We plan to operate through Colorado starting with today’s [Thursday, Aug. 5] originations in Chicago and at the San Francisco Bay, which would give us service across the state tomorrow [Friday, Aug. 6],” Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari told RealVail.com. “There is very limited availability on these trains for the next few days, due to re-accommodations in what is an already-busy season. Amtrak and our customers appreciate the hard work of Union Pacific and its crews to restore service on this important route.”

Amtrak’s California Zephyr between Chicago and the Bay Area of California runs daily service through the canyon and the tracks were shut down briefly due to the most recent slides, but the damage wasn’t nearly as extensive as what hit the highway after torrential rains over the last week. Union Pacific has its tracks and freight rail back up and running, and passengers will be able to travel through the canyon, with a stop in Glenwood Springs, Denver and Grand Junction.

However, there are no local stops in Eagle County, so Amtrak does not provide a passenger alternative locally. Eagle County employees living on the western side of the canyon have been dealing with travel headaches all summer during the periodic canyon closures.

Manufacturers on Colorado’s Western Slope have cited travel snarls on I-70 as a key reason for seeking better freight rail services in Grand Junction as they’re forced to look west to Utah for shipping alternatives.

Colorado officials point to climate change as a major factor exacerbating both last year’s wildfires (Grizzly Creek in Glenwood Canyon was the largest in White River National Forest history) and extreme rain events triggering both mud and rockslides more recently.

Union Pacific and a short-line rail company had been engaged in discussions about reviving freight and passenger service on the dormant Tennessee Pass Line through Eagle County, where some local officials would like to see a local commuter network between Dotsero and Leadville. Competing Colorado Pacific Railroad hopes to acquire the line for grain shipments and limited passenger service between Pueblo and Minturn. Those efforts remain at an impasse.

Dotsero in western Eagle County is at the eastern end of Glenwood Canyon. It’s where the Eagle River flows into the Colorado River and where UP’s active Moffat Line, which travels through Glenwood Canyon, connects with the Tennessee Pass Line, which runs along the Eagle and Arkansas Rivers to Pueblo on Colorado’s Front Range.

Amtrak is working with state officials and railroad operators to possibly start a Front Range passenger line between Pueblo and Fort Collins.

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David O. Williams

Managing Editor at RealVail
David O. Williams is the editor and co-founder of RealVail.com and has had his awarding-winning work (see About Us) published in more than 75 newspapers and magazines around the world, including 5280 Magazine, American Way Magazine (American Airlines), the Anchorage Daily News (Alaska), the Anchorage Daily Press (Alaska), Aspen Daily News, Aspen Journalism, the Aspen Times, Beaver Creek Magazine, the Boulder Daily Camera, the Casper Star Tribune (Wyoming), the Chicago Tribune, Colorado Central Magazine, the Colorado Independent (formerly Colorado Confidential), Colorado Newsline, Colorado Politics (formerly the Colorado Statesman), Colorado Public News, the Colorado Springs Gazette, the Colorado Springs Independent, the Colorado Statesman (now Colorado Politics), the Colorado Times Recorder, the Cortez Journal, the Craig Daily Press, the Curry Coastal Pilot (Oregon), the Daily Trail (Vail), the Del Norte Triplicate (California), the Denver Daily News, the Denver Gazette, the Denver Post, the Durango Herald, the Eagle Valley Enterprise, the Eastside Journal (Bellevue, Washington), ESPN.com, Explore Big Sky (Mont.), the Fort Morgan Times (Colorado), the Glenwood Springs Post-Independent, the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, the Greeley Tribune, the Huffington Post, the King County Journal (Seattle, Washington), the Kingman Daily Miner (Arizona), KUNC.org (northern Colorado), LA Weekly, the Las Vegas Sun, the Leadville Herald-Democrat, the London Daily Mirror, the Moab Times Independent (Utah), the Montgomery Journal (Maryland), the Montrose Daily Press, The New York Times, the Parent’s Handbook, Peaks Magazine (now Epic Life), People Magazine, Powder Magazine, the Pueblo Chieftain, PT Magazine, the Rio Blanco Herald Times (Colorado), Rocky Mountain Golf Magazine, the Rocky Mountain News, RouteFifty.com (formerly Government Executive State and Local), the Salt Lake Tribune, SKI Magazine, Ski Area Management, SKIING Magazine, the Sky-Hi News, the Steamboat Pilot & Today, the Sterling Journal Advocate (Colorado), the Summit Daily News, United Hemispheres (United Airlines), Vail/Beaver Creek Magazine, Vail en Español, Vail Health Magazine, Vail Valley Magazine, the Vail Daily, the Vail Trail, Westword (Denver), Writers on the Range and the Wyoming Tribune Eagle. Williams is also the founder, publisher and editor of RealVail.com and RockyMountainPost.com.

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