I-70 project detour expected to create heavy Grand County traffic
Grand County residents can expect extremely heavy traffic flows on Highway 9 and Highway 40 on Tuesday, April 5, with a closure of I-70 from Georgetown to Silverthorne scheduled that day. The Colorado Department of Transportation announced on Wednesday that it plans to close the stretch of I-70 to accommodate a large-scale boulder removal at the weathered and steep Georgetown Hill. Closing both lanes to through traffic between Exit 232 at Empire and Exit 205 at Silverthorne could bring as many as 30,000 vehicles through Grand County, which is the overall number of vehicles expected to use the freeway that day.The Highway 40- Highway 9 route is the shortest distance (73 miles) of two detours travelers could take. The other is U.S. 285 southwest to Fairplay, State Highway 9 over Hoosier Pass to I-70 in Frisco (101 miles).”There’s never a good time to have a full closure of I-70, especially during the daytime,” said CDOT Regional Transportation Director Tony Devito in statements released on Wednesday. “But we need to get this done now because it’s the time of year we experience the recurring of freeze and thaw along with those wet snows that make the mountainous areas more susceptible to rockfall.”An “unstable cluster” of boulders, some the size of pick-up trucks, is located on the slope 300 feet above I-70. “We know this closure will have major impacts, but the safety of the traveling public is always our first priority,” Devito said. “These boulders have the potential to come down on their own and we need to remove them before that happens.”Work is scheduled to start at 9 a.m. and continue through the day. If work is not completed on April 5, it may need to be continued on Wednesday, April 6. If necessary, the work could be resumed the following week.”We’ll have a much better idea what needs to be done once the initial work is done on that day,” said CDOT spokesperson Bob Wilson.Work to remove boulders on Georgetown Hill has been an annual occurrence during which one lane closes at 20-minute intervals for maintenance. It’s a very rare occurrence to have both lanes closed for the work, according to Wilson. “There is little predictability on when and where exactly rocks will travel,” Devito said. “We absolutely cannot allow traffic to travel on Georgetown Hill while the work is occurring since falling rock could reach the roadway and break apart even further.”Residents who live below the potential fall area are being asked to evacuate their homes that day, according to the CDOT press release. There are about five homes identified as being in the area where rocks have potential to land, the release states.Since heavy traffic is expected for Grand County, motorists can expect more slow downs with trucks, especially on Berthoud Pass.And if there happens to be a Berthoud closure that day, the project would likely be postponed, Wilson said.Winter Park Chief of Police Glen Trainor and Grand County Sheriff Rod Johnson both are hoping for fair weather to help promote smooth traffic flow. Since the project is taking place mid-week, Trainor suspects traffic flows in the Fraser Valley might be similar to Friday or Saturday late afternoons on holiday weekends.The chief plans to meet with public works directors and town managers to create a plan for taking “appropriate steps to keep traffic moving as smoothly as possible,” although the department may not have enough officers available for directing traffic at every stoplight, he said.On Thursday, the Granby Chamber of Commerce sent out a mass email to members, alerting them of the upcoming influx of traffic through town. The email encouraged businesses to take advantage of the detour, saying: “Let’s invite them to stop and take a break in Granby. Put up signs. Put out balloons. Entice them into your business while they take a break from the extended drive they are making. Remember, if we treat them right, they will tell their friends and perhaps we can get some return business.”- Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext.19603
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