Saturday afternoon target for reopening Glenwood Canyon to one lane each direction
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said Wednesday morning that state highway officials are confident they can have Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon open to limited traffic by Saturday afternoon.
The canyon has been closed since the night of July 29 when the first of several mud and debris slides triggered by torrential rains over the Grizzly Creek burn scar covered the interstate in several locations.
Colorado Department of Transportation crews have been working since then to clear as much as 10-15 feet of mud and debris from parts of the roadway and assess the damage beneath.
Polis toured the canyon Wednesday with CDOT Executive Director Shoshana Lew and other CDOT and U.S. Forest Service officials, accompanied by news media from across the state.
“We are pushing to get this open as quickly as we can, but of course, it has to be safe before we can do that,” Polis said.
“At this point, we are confident it will be open Saturday afternoon with one lane each way,” the governor said.
The most significant damage is in the vicinity of mile point 123.5 at what’s known as Blue Gulch, where a massive slide covered the roadway and caused significant damage to highway infrastructure.
The eastbound lanes include a 15-foot deep hole caused by the flood, and the barrier wall on the elevated westbound lanes is severely damaged.
However, much of canyon should be open to two lanes in both directions once the remainder of the debris is removed and initial repairs made to the road surface, Polis said.
“There’s really only about a quarter-mile patch where it would go down to one lane,” he said.
Polis did note that the reopening schedule is weather dependent, and with rain in the forecast later in the week, things could change.
There will also likely be additional short-term closures of 20-30 minutes at a time to allow for road work and additional debris removal to be completed, he said.
Crews are also working with Holy Cross and Xcel Energy to restore power supplies to the Hanging Lake Tunnel command center, which has been operating on limited power since the canyon’s closure.
Polis acknowledged the Federal Highway Administration’s approval Tuesday of $11.6 million in emergency funding to take care of the initial repairs that will need to be made to I-70. That amount is part of an overall $116 million request for federal aid to deal with the long-term impacts of last year’s wildfire and the barrage of mud and debris flows that have occurred this summer.
CDOT officials hope to have repairs completed in Glenwood Canyon, and the road reopened to two lanes in both directions by late November, the governor said.
“The initial repairs to be completed will be enough to allow one lane of traffic each way by Saturday afternoon, Polis reiterated.
Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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