DENVER – Interstate 70 reopened through Glenwood Canyon Saturday morning to one lane in each direction in the area with the heaviest damage and more than two weeks after mudslides forced its closure.
The Colorado Department of Transportation reopened the road just after 7 a.m. Saturday. Officials had said Friday they hoped to have the interstate back open by Saturday afternoon at the latest.
“Our team has worked tirelessly to get Glenwood Canyon on I-70 opened as soon as possible and we have made each minute count. I’m thrilled that we are delivering a few hours ahead of schedule. Every moment counts. I want to thank Shoshana Lew for her leadership on this effort as CDOT has worked day and night to safely clear a path. It has been an all-hands-on-deck effort to get the canyon reopened from the mudslides which covered parts of the highway with fifteen feet of rock and sludge,” Gov. Jared Polis said in a statement.
Torrential monsoon rains caused mudslides in late July – a few of more than a dozen that occurred between late June and early August – that brought down tons of debris in the canyon from the Grizzly Creek Fire burn scar and onto the interstate forced its extended closure starting July 29.
Crews have worked daily, weather permitting, to clear the debris from the interstate and river in order to inspect the resulting damage. In inspections this week, CDOT and federal highway officials determined the road through the most severely damaged area near Blue Gulch could support one lane of traffic each way while repairs continue.
CDOT engineers and executive director Shoshana Lew said Friday drivers should expect speed limits to be lower in Glenwood Canyon than they are on other stretches of I-70 and down to 35 miles per hour in the mile-long stretch where traffic is restricted to one lane.
“There’s going to be a lot to see as you’re driving on I-70 and we know that this will be interesting for all those traversing through the canyon,” Lew said in a statement. “But we urge motorists to please keep your eyes on the roadway. We already expect traffic to be slower through the canyon due to the temporary road configuration and reduced speed limits. The last thing we need is distracted driving, or worse, a crash in the canyon which would inevitably force a closure of I-70.
“It still looks beautiful and the roads are pretty clean,” said William Rosenblatt, who was traveling through the state on Saturday.
Richard Parsons, from Fort Morgan, said having the interstate open back up saved him at least an hour on his trip Saturday.
April Bak, the assistant general manager at the Village Inn in Glenwood Springs, said the interstate’s reopening was “very exciting” for her and other businesses. Her restaurant saw a drop in sales as tourists and locals had trouble getting there during the closure.
“We’ve been a lot slower than usual. We definitely took a hit with the interstate being closed, but we’ve been hanging in there.”
But she admitted there is still uncertainty in town about when another closure might be put in place should more mudslides happen. CDOT officials said Thursday they hope to have the portions most heavily damaged repaired by Thanksgiving, but said having cooperative weather would be ke
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