Blasting did not set off I-70 rockslide, officials say
State road crews had done some minor work inside the Hanging Lake Tunnels weeks before Monday’s rockslide on Interstate 70, but that work had nothing to do with the incident, Colorado Department of Transportation officials said Wednesday.
The Daily Sentinel had received word that CDOT crews might have been blasting in Glenwood Canyon a few days before the slide occurred Monday, but department spokeswoman Mindy Crane said some people may be confusing that with routine rockfall mitigation that occurred last week in De Beque Canyon, which is more than 70 miles away.
CDOT routinely removes loose boulders from such areas, she said.
The most recent work highway crews did in Glenwood Canyon was in late January, when they did electrical work in a cross-path that connects the two 4,000-foot-long tunnels for east- and westbound traffic.
Weldon Allen, CDOT Region 3 director for the northwest corner of the state, said crews last fall discovered a minor crack in concrete in one cross-path and were planning to do repair work this spring. No blasting was involved, he said.
“We do an annual tunnel inspection, and we found a crack,” he said. “A lot of our switch gear was in there. We just moved that because we didn’t want it endangered. If that crack turned into something more, we didn’t want to destroy hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of equipment.”
The two tunnels have eight cross-paths, which house electrical equipment and serve as emergency exits. Five of them are for foot traffic to escape the tunnels, two are for vehicles and one houses equipment.
The tunnels are located between mile markers 125.3 and 126. The rockslide occurred nearby, at mile marker 125. Allen said that while the two are less than a half-mile apart, the rockslide was on a different part of the canyon.
“Hanging Lake Tunnel is on the north-facing slope, and the rockfall is on the south-facing slope,” he said.