I-70 through Colorado’s Glenwood Canyon to partially reopen Saturday

I-70 through Colorado’s Glenwood Canyon to partially reopen Saturday
On July 29, 2021, a rush of mud and boulders tumbled across Interstate 70 in Colorado’s Glenwood Canyon. (RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via AP)

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. — A stretch of Interstate 70 through Colorado’s Glenwood Canyon that has been shut down since July 29 because of mudslides is expected to reopen to limited traffic as early as Saturday afternoon, Aug. 14. The closure of the corridor, which is a heavily traveled freight route, has forced commercial drivers to detour north on I-80 through Wyoming.

The announcement was made Aug. 11 by Colorado Gov. Jared Polis during a visit to the site, where he surveyed the damage caused by devastating mudslides in the surrounding area and observed the progress made to clean up and reopen the canyon route.

“Clearing and ultimately re-opening the I-70 corridor through Glenwood Springs is our top transportation priority. This corridor plays a vital role in our state’s economy,” Polis said.

“CDOT and state emergency operations have made tremendous progress in cleaning up and removing tons of mud and debris that have completely blocked off access to this roadway,” he said. “As the state recovers from this incident and reopens this corridor Saturday afternoon, we will continue to need strong federal partners in the Biden administration and our federal delegation.”

Jared Polis at Glenwood Canyon
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis and Shoshana Lew, director of the Colorado Department of Transportation, observe the damage to Interstate 70 in Glenwood Canyon. (Courtesy: Colorado Department of Transportation)

Polis was joined by Shoshana Lew, Director of the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) and state officials. According to an Aug. 11 statement released by CDOT, there is “There is extensive work to be accomplished over the next four days” for the route to partially re-open this weekend.

The July 29 mudslides stranded more than 100 people in their vehicles overnight and caused extensive damage.

Following the mudslides, Polis issued two executive orders authorizing a disaster declaration because of the vital role the I-70 corridor plays in the nation’s transportation system.

On Aug. 9, Polis appealed to the U.S. Department of Transportation to provide $116 million in aid through the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Emergency Relief program to support the recovery response. The state requested that 10% of the total funding request ($11.6 million) to be issued through an expedited process.

The request for emergency relief calls for the following:

  • $50 million for a Future Resiliency & Redundancy Study to help prevent similar events in the future;
  • $20 million to cover damage caused by the event or debris removal hauling costs;
  • $20 million for assumed damage repair estimates (nonvisible);
  • $10 million to mitigate impacts to existing state highway alternate routes as a result of the I-70 closure;
  • $5 million for potential geohazard mitigation at several locations;
  • $5 million to cover construction management and construction engineering costs;
  • $4 million for debris removal costs, including maintenance staff costs;
  • $1 million for supplemental traffic control services (contractor) costs; and
  • $1 million for CDOT administration (non-maintenance staff) costs.

“The ongoing vulnerability due to the severe erosion described above will likely require improvements to diversion routes such as Cottonwood Pass to be able to withstand heavier traffic in the future while providing resiliency,” the letter continues. “Prior estimates concluded that improvements to Cottonwood Pass are upwards of $50 million of which has been carried forward in the estimates below, subject to further assessment which could increase this number.”

For updates on Colorado’s I-70 corridor or information about alternative routes, click here.

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