Monday's rock slide has closed Interstate 70 near Glenwood Springs, Colorado, forcing drivers on a 140-mile detour. Although state officials had expected to open one lane on Thursday, they now say that it may take longer. The interstate may not be fully open for several weeks.
A tractor-trailer truck was damaged when a boulder the size of a small car crashed into the truck’s trailer, but driver, Ray Hatch of Las Vegas, was not injured. Hatch said he saw the car in front of him disappear into a cloud of dust before his truck hit a boulder head-on.
Rocks tumbled onto I-70 Monday night about 125 miles east of the Utah border. The Colorado Department of Transportation shut down traffic in both directions along 24 miles of highway, from Glenwood Springs in the west to Gypsum in the east. “This is as big as I’ve seen,” said CDOT spokeswoman Tracy Trulove.
Crews are expected to have the interstate clear by Thursday afternoon. But traffic could move slowly because pilot vehicles will lead drivers through the most damaged areas, the Glenwood Springs Post Independent reported.
The shortest detour adds nearly 140 miles to the trip, taking traffic north to U.S. 40 and then back south to I-70. CDOT spokeswoman Amy Ford said Tuesday officials don’t know when it will reopen. “It could be a long-time closure,” she said.
CDOT reports I-70 is closed in both directions from Glenwood Springs to Gypsum, Colorado. Geo-safety teams are inspecting the rock face and rock scaling operations are underway to bring down any additional loose rock. Crews will be installing rockfall mitigation fencing on the westbound lanes.
On Thursday, a pilot car operation--directing single-lane, alternating traffic--will be implemented and traffic will be routed to the eastbound lanes, which did not incur as much damage. The pilot car operation could be in place for several days while early repairs and additional rock stabilization are completed.
As repairs progress, CDOT will move to open one lane in each direction. 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. WB I-70 travelers can detour via: NB CO-131 at Wolcott to WB US-40 at Steamboat Springs to SB CO-13 at Craig to WB I-70 at Rifle. EB I-70 travelers can use the same roads in the opposite direction. Estimated detour travel time is 4 hours. Cottonwood Pass is closed and is not a viable shortcut for this detour.