Transportation

I-70 Closures That Will Blindside You

This is why closures may be imposed on Interstate 70 near Floyd Hill.
This is why closures may be imposed on Interstate 70 near Floyd Hill. Colorado Department of Transportation
The Colorado Department of Transportation tries to give motorists a heads-up days in advance when CDOT knows that a highway closure necessitating a detour is coming. But starting this week, shutdowns requiring alternative routes could happen with much less advance warning along one of the state's most traveled stretches of roadway — eastbound Interstate 70 at Floyd Hill.

The reason? Sun glare. And today, November 4, offers proof that CDOT is serious about such closures. The department announced that it had imposed one at 7:27 a.m.; it was lifted at 8:22 a.m.

According to CDOT, "early November marks the beginning of sun-glare season," with I-70 between mile points 244 and 248, east of Idaho Springs, particularly susceptible to the problem. Eastbound drivers can literally be blinded as far east as Genesee from sunrise until 8:30 a.m. or so.

As a result, the department plans to warn drivers of the issue via messages on electronic signs. But when the conditions are deemed to be excessively dangerous, CDOT personnel, assisted by the Colorado State Patrol, have the power to close the interstate until the sun rises high enough not to be in drivers' direct line of sight, and they've already designated a detour under such circumstances.

When a closure is implemented, eastbound traffic will be rerouted onto U.S. Highway 6, at the bottom of Floyd Hill, at exit 244. At that point, motorists can then choose to stay on U.S. 6 through Clear Creek Canyon — unless they're driving big rigs, since the route restricts any vehicle over 12' 7" in height — or take the eastbound I-70 frontage road, formally known as U.S. 40, and then return to I-70 at exit 248, Beaver Brook.

On average, these closures last between 45 minutes and an hour, and regular commuters should get used to them, since they can occur anytime between now and February.

In the meantime, CDOT recommends that drivers adjust their travel plans to avoid the 7 to 8:30 a.m. time period. If that's not possible, they're advised to keep their windshield clean, keep a good pair of sunglasses handy and take their foot off the accelerator and slow down gradually rather than slamming on the brakes if they find themselves suddenly blinded.

True, claims about Colorado having 300 days of sunshine per year are a myth — but there are more than enough to make driving this part of I-70 a headache for months to come.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts