The Colorado Department of Transportation and its contract partners are almost done removing debris from the Colorado River in preparation for possible debris flows this spring and summer, and have started planning for closure protocols.
“CDOT has made tremendous progress in recovery from the 2021 mudflows,” said CDOT Executive Director Shoshana Lew. “From fixing the road in record time to removing material from the river, as well as rockfall work and other mitigation, it’s been a team effort. And that team extends beyond this agency. CDOT will continue to work with agency partners to manage this complex section of I-70 and impacts on our vital alternate routes."
In the summer of 2021, Interstate 70 through the canyon closed multiple times due to slides that reached or covered the highway. One of the slides in July was large enough to force a two-week closure of I-70 after it carried boulders, dirt, rocks and other debris across the interstate. CDOT crews cleared the road and made some road repairs before the highway reopened. The repairs continued until December.
CDOT and its contract partners, Lawrence Construction and IHC Scott, have been working since January to remove materials that piled up in six locations along the Colorado River — a task that is almost complete. Removing this helps lower the risk of damage from high water and new mudslides, but also protects the interstate, CDOT said.
Soon, CDOT crews will resume a rockfall removal project in the canyon to clear rock caught by rockfall fencing, repair fencing, and remove loose rock from the walls of the canyon. The crews will work with Midwest Rockfall, Inc., which is the contractor for this part of the project.
The timeline of these projects are dependent on weather, CDOT said. It will update its timeline on a week-to-week basis on its website here.
The Federal Highway Administration will reimburse the state’s costs pursuant to the emergency relief program supporting the repairs to the highway, CDOT said.
“It is truly encouraging to see turnout from so many federal, state and local agency partners,” Lew said. “We look forward to continuing to work together with stakeholders from along the I-70 corridor, the northern alternate route and the southern route to build on the lessons learned from 2020 and 2021."
In addition to repairs, federal, state and local agencies met in late March to review emergency response protocol when and if I-70 must close through Glenwood Canyon. More than 50 agencies — including 170 people — participated in the discussions, CDOT said.
Looking ahead, CDOT will continue to have a safety protocol in place for the canyon.
Any drivers planning to travel through Glenwood Canyon, or anybody who wants to use the recreation path, should keep an eye on the forecast and be prepared for a safety closure if rain is expected and have a backup plan in place. Drivers stuck in closures that last longer than two hours will be redirected to a northern alternate route, which is shown below:
CDOT said it recommends not using the highways south of I-70 due to construction closures on US Highway 50, and to also avoid Cottonwood Pass Road, Hagerman Pass, Eagle/Thomasville Road or other county or forest service roads in Eagle, Garfield and Pitkin counties.
After a closure of the canyon, Colorado State Patrol will sweep the entire area to ensure nobody is stuck in between the two closure points.
Check www.COtrip.org/home for the latest on road conditions and best routes for your trip. For more information about the work being done in Glenwood Canyon, call 970-319-1887 or email I70GlenwoodCanyon@gmail.com.