Update: At last, Glenwood Canyon has been reopened to two-way traffic for the first time since rock slides on February 15 shut down this stretch of Interstate 70; see our previous coverage below.
That's good news for those trying to get from one side of the state to the other via this much-traveled route. Since Sunday, February 21, pilot cars have led travelers along a single lane through the canyon on an alternating basis from 4 p.m. to 9 a.m. However, the road remained closed between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. to allow for repair work to move forward.
As of 4 p.m. yesterday, two-way traffic was reestablished on a 24/7 basis. But those who drive the canyon between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. are warned to expect delays. And officials warn that it could be weeks before things are totally back to normal.
After 4 p.m., things should move much more smoothly. On its Facebook page, CDOT reports that the first westbound run yesterday took 25 minutes — not bad under these admittedly crazy circumstances.
Look below for details about pace car operations, followed by our earlier reports, featuring photos aplenty.
PACE CAR OPERATIONS:
Eastbound traffic is slow rolled in the one-lane configuration starting at Exit 116 (Glenwood Springs) all the way to Grizzly Creek rest area where a flagger is present and a pace car picks up traffic. Westbound is slow rolled into one-lane starting at Exit 129 (Bair Ranch) all the way to the east side of the Hanging Lake Tunnel bore (also manned by a flagger) where vehicles will be picked up by the pace car and escorted through. The pace car operation is manned by Colorado State Patrol and traffic control. At any time, four-six pace cars will be escorting cars through. The pace cars will be used to control the speed and flow of traffic through the restricted area, but in this configuration volumes should clear more efficiently. Delays of up to an hour or more should still be expected in this configuration. Updates will continue to be posted on CDOT’s traveler information site at www.cotrip.org and recorded on the 511 phone line.
The Grizzly Creek, Hanging Lake and Shoshone rest areas will be closed for the duration of this head-to-head pace car car operation. Bair Ranch (on the east side) and No Name (west side) rest areas will remain open. The Glenwood Canyon Bike Path remains closed as well. (Please note, local traffic coming from the west can travel as far as No Name; local traffic from the east can travel as far as Bair Ranch.)
Update, 5:32 a.m. February 22: On Friday, February 19, we reported that Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon would remain closed at least until the following day as a result of continuing cleanup necessitated by rock slides earlier in the week; see our previous coverage below.
Turns out I-70 didn't reopen until Sunday, February 21, and then only in limited fashion. At this writing, just a single lane is accessible for use in alternating fashion. Eastbound traffic is being routed into one lane starting at exit 116 in Glenwood Springs and continues in that fashion to the Grizzly Creek rest area, where a pilot car awaits to lead drivers through the canyon. Westbound travelers are moved into a single lane at exit 129/Bair Ranch and stay in that configuration until reaching a pilot car at the Hanging Lake tunnel.
And yes, they'll be taking turns.
Obviously, delays will be major, although presumably not as long as detours of up to 146 miles; we've included that info below.
And if you're hoping to pass through the canyon between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., you're out of luck. For now, the interstate will be shut down entirely during that stretch for continuing repairs. And it'll take quite a while for things to get entirely back to normal.
"As repairs progress, CDOT will move to open one lane in each direction," a department release notes. "It could be several weeks before the damage to the roadway walls and roadway are repaired and the interstate is fully open to regular traffic operations."
Continue for Colorado Department of Transportation photos from the weekend, featuring text that accompanied them when shared on CDOT's Facebook page. That's followed by information about alternative routes and our previous coverage.
ALTERNATE ROUTES/TRAFFIC IMPACTS:
Front Range motorists heading westbound
US 40 north (Steamboat Springs) west on US 40 (Craig) south to CO 13 (Rifle)
Summit County/westbound motorists
CO 9 (Silverthorne) to US 40 (Steamboat Springs) west on US 40 (Craig) south to CO 13 (Rifle)
Eagle County/westbound motorists
CO 131 at Wolcott to Steamboat Springs, west on US 40 to Craig, then south on CO 13 to Rifle and back to I-70. This is a 203-mile alternate route that will take about three hours and 50 minutes to travel. This detour adds 146 miles and about three hours to a regular trip from Wolcott to Rifle on I-70, which is 67 miles or about 45 minutes.
South alternate route
Uses US 50. Access to US 50 is available via Grand Junction for eastbound drivers and for westbound drivers by way of US 24/285 through the Salida area from the Front Range. (Please note, there is construction on US 24 over Trout Creek Pass east of Johnson Village in Chaffee County into early March; some blasting and up to 30-minute delays may be encountered.)
Cottonwood Pass in Eagle County and Independence Pass are both closed and not available as alternate routes. Frying Pan Road and Hagerman Pass are not recommended alternate routes.
Work During Pilot Car Operations:
CDOT will move into permanent rockfall mitigation activities (adding more fencing, addressing additional potential rock fall areas, placing sensors and/or tying back certain rocks). This work may require additional longer-term closures of the corridor to safely complete. (It is estimated that the damage caused by this rockslide event could range from $2 million to $5 million—updated information regarding this amount, scope of a repair project and funding sources will be provided in later releases when more is known.)
Original post, 5:45 a.m. February 19: The past week has been hell on the highways in Colorado.
Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon was closed late Monday, February 15, after two rock slides in the area of mile marker 124, not far from the Hanging Lake Tunnel — and now, the Colorado Department of Transportation says it won't reopened until Saturday at the earliest.
Then, last night, Interstate 25 was closed for an extended stretch in both directions between Dry Creek Road and County Line Road due to an unexpected reason: High winds had caused two panels on a giant IKEA sign to become unstable, and repairs had to be made to prevent them from coming off and shearing into traffic.
I-25 was reopened around 8:30 p.m. last night. In Glenwood Canyon, however, CDOT notes that "inclement weather has created delays in crews’ progress bringing additional rocks down onto the highway and restoring safety. Ultimately, the opening time and day will be dependent on CDOT’s ability to complete mitigation and clear the roadway with the current weather conditions."
“Because of the weather today, we could not fly a helicopter to bring airbags and tools to the rock face,” CDOT Deputy Maintenance Superintendent T. J. Blake said in a statement. “Crews had to haul everything up by hand and that set us back several hours.
“All 160-linear-feet of new fencing will be installed on top of the barrier by tomorrow, helping to capture the smaller rocks,” he added. “The roadway has been patched on the eastbound side where we plan to run the pilot car operation; we are continuing our work to bring more rocks — large and small — down from the mountainside with the use of pry bars, airbags and some explosives.”
When Glenwood Canyon reopens, the process will be gradual. Initially, just one lane in each direction will offer access — and the department concedes that it could take several weeks for all the damage to the road and the barriers alongside it to be repaired and the route fully reopened.
Look below to see a slew of Colorado Department of Transportation photos of the Glenwood Canyon damage and repair crews, followed by tweets showing the IKEA sign repair, as well as a 7News report. Finally, we've included CDOT advice about Glenwood Canyon travel impacts, alternative routes and more.
From a Colorado Department of Transportation release regarding Glenwood Canyon:
TRAFFIC THROUGH THE CANYON: The average daily traffic for Glenwood Canyon is around 300 vehicles per hour. Around the evening of the incident the average traffic was about 150 per hour; the volume starts to drop off significantly after 11:00 p.m. to less than 100 vehicles per hour.
TRAVEL IMPACTS/ALTERNATE ROUTE: There are two alternate routes, one north of I-70 and one south of I-70. The north alternate route for for westbound motorists is north on CO 131 at Wolcott to Steamboat Springs, west on US 40 to Craig, then south on CO 13 to Rifle and back to I-70. This is a 203-mile alternate route that will take about three hours and 50 minutes to travel. This detour adds 146 miles and about three hours to a regular trip from Wolcott to Rifle on I-70, which is 67 miles or about 45 minutes. Please always check www.cotrip.org for roadway conditions before heading out. Cottonwood Pass and Independence Pass are both closed and not available as alternate routes. Frying Pan Road and Hagerman Pass are not recommended alternate routes.
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The south alternate route uses US 50. Access to US 50 is available via Grand Junction for eastbound drivers and for westbound drivers by way of US 24/285 through the Salida area from the Front Range. (Please note, there is construction on US 24 over Trout Creek Pass east of Johnson Village in Chaffee County into early March; some blasting and up to 30-minute delays may be encountered.)
BUSTANG SERVICE: In addition, the western terminus for Bustang, CDOT’s interregional express bus service to Glenwood Springs, is being temporarily moved to Eagle while I-70 is closed through Glenwood Canyon. The current arrival and departure times will remain the same. When I-70 reopens to traffic, Bustang will resume regular service to Glenwood Springs with possible adjustments to the arrival and departure times pending the pilot car impacts.