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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

I-70 in Glenwood Canyon Colorado closed due to rock slide

Update Mar. 11, 2010: I-70 reopens 3 lanes. It only took days to re-open compared to I-40 in N.C. which took 6 months.
A rock slide overnight in Glenwood Canyon has closed Interstate 70 for 17 miles in both directions. (CDOT )

Experts: Rockfalls in Glenwood Canyon all but impossible to prevent
Massive rock slide punches holes in Interstate 70

Interstate 70 near Glenwood Springs remains closed after a rock slide smashed through a bridge and dumped boulders the size of tractor trailers on the highway early Monday just west of the Hanging Lake Tunnel.

Detours of up to 200 miles could last for days, if not weeks, before the 17-mile stretch of interstate re-opens, the Colorado Department of Transportation said this afternoon.

No injuries or damage to vehicles were reported.

CDOT geologists made the two-hour hike each way to inspect the slide area this afternoon, finding that it remained unstable. Officials will meet Tuesday to decide a course of mitigation and estimate when the interstate might reopen.

Gov. Bill Ritter this afternoon declared a disaster emergency in order to ask for money from the Federal Highway Administration to help pay for repairs. A similar slide in the same area in 2004 cost $700,000 to repair.

"This is very similar in size, but we think it has caused even more damage than that one did," said CDOT spokeswoman Stacy Stegman.

In 2004, I-70 reopened the next day, but there was not unstable rock that had to be addressed above the slide, however, according to CDOT.

Ritter's order called on all state departments and agencies to take whatever actions necessary to speed the work.

"The immediate repair and reconstruction of the damaged highway is vital to the security, well-being, and health of the citizens of the state of Colorado," Ritter stated in his emergency declaration.

The long detours for truckers will mean extra costs and delays, an industry official said.

"You couldn't have picked a worse location, because there is no work-around. That is one of the real choke points in the system," said Greg Fulton, president of the Colorado Motor Carriers Association. "It is not five or 10 miles. This is a fairly significant impact on our end."

CDOT will implement emergency contracting procedures and meet with contractors over the next couple of days as crews develop repair plans.

As many as 20 boulders, ranging from 3 feet to 10 feet in diameter, hit the interstate. CDOT estimates the largest rock weighs 66 tons and some are as big as semi trucks. The largest stone weighed 66 tons. About 120 feet of steel guard rail and 100 feet of median were damaged.

One hole in the bridge is estimated at about 10-by-20 feet.

All lanes are closed from Glenwood Springs east to the town of Dotsero between mile markers 116 and 125. Up to 25,000 vehicles a day travel that section.

Alternate routes are in effect: From westbound I-70 exit at U.S. Highway 40/Empire to Colorado Highway 13 and back to I-70; exit in Interstate 70 is closed in both directions from Glenwood Springs east to Dotsero because of a rock slide overnight. A detour has been set up through Steamboat Springs and Craig. (The Denver Post)Silverthorne and take Colorado Highway 9 to U.S. Highway 40 and Colorado Highway 13; exit at Wolcott/Colorado Highway 131 to U.S. Highway 40 and Colorado Highway 13.

From eastbound I-70: exit at Rifle/Colorado Highway 13 to U.S. Highway 40 and back to I-70.
Adding to the traffic woes, one potential detour, U.S. 50 over Monarch Pass, was closed because of heavy snow Monday.

As you might remember, I-40 in N.C. is still closed due to a rock slide on Oct. 25, 2009. See my entry of Oct. 28, 2009. I-70 thru Glenwood Canyon in Colorado is one of the most beautiful dtives in America. I have been thru there twice.

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