Canyon projects slow drive time on Interstate 70

Work to deal with falling rocks means rising travel times for motorists on Interstate 70 east of Grand Junction.

A rockfall mitigation project that will start Monday in De Beque Canyon will result in a reduction in the speed limit from 50 mph to 40 mph for several miles.

In addition, Colorado Department of Transportation spokeswoman Nancy Shanks said, the project will require at least one midday closure of the highway for up to a half-hour a day to allow for blasting work.

Shanks said blasting work will take place starting Tuesday and could continue as long as Thursday.

Otherwise, travel through De Beque Canyon shouldn’t be slowed by more than 15 to 20 minutes, Shanks said. The work there is scheduled for completion in mid-May.

Meanwhile, traffic continues to be slowed further east in Glenwood Canyon, where repair work has been taking place after rockfall that closed the interstate through the canyon for several days starting March 8.

In addition to repairs to the roadway, CDOT said this week it is having a contractor install about 14,000 square feet of wire mesh netting to help contain rockfall in the area where the March 8 event occurred.

Repairs in Glenwood Canyon are scheduled for completion by May 15. Shanks said motorists probably should expect it to take five or 10 minutes longer than normal to get through the canyon.

Motorists might want to keep the two projects in mind when planning trips east on I-70 from Grand Junction.

“For folks who are trying to get to their flight or make a doctor’s appointment or something, it’s always best to pad that time, go ahead and add that extra hour to your trip just to be safe,” Shanks said.

The De Beque Canyon work will cost $380,000 and is being done by Yenter Companies. It is being prompted by several rockfall incidents in recent years.

At mile marker 51, crews will repair a retaining wall and install rock bolts to stabilize a hillside. Drilling, blasting and scaling of rocks will occur at mile markers 53 and 56.

The Glenwood Canyon wire mesh installation will cost about $300,000.

Netting will be installed near the bottom of two chutes where boulders as big as 66 tons struck the highway March 8, punching holes in elevated sections.

Highway officials say the netting isn’t intended to prevent another large rockfall incident. Rather, the hope is to keep smaller rocks less than 3 feet in diameter from falling onto the highway.

On March 25, the back of a vehicle was struck when such a rock fell in the same area as the March 8 incident. The rock originated from lower on the slopes than the boulders had.

The vehicle reportedly was being driven by Grand Junction resident Kurt Kuxhausen, who was uninjured and was able to drive the vehicle home.


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