CDOT hopeful I-70 could reopen today
The closure of Interstate 70 in Glenwood Canyon is continuing into its fourth day today, but work crews Wednesday eliminated a major obstacle to reopening the route when they blasted a big boulder perched 800 feet above the roadway.
Colorado Department of Transportation spokeswoman Nancy Shanks said “it sure could happen” that I-70 reopens sometime today, assuming workers don’t encounter unanticipated problems.
Progress on restoring travel along I-70 after a major rockfall was tempered by the death Wednesday of Craig resident Karen Lynn Evanoff, 55, while she was riding in vehicle that was struck by a rock on U.S. Highway 40, one of the detour routes around the I-70 rockslide. Evanoff reportedly was making her normal commute to work and was not on the road because of the I-70 closure.
Shanks said Evanoff’s death involved a basketball-sized rock and occurred along a stretch of U.S. 40 between Craig and Steamboat Springs that has only had five reported rockfall incidents since 1998. U.S. 40 remains open. A geologist determined that only one rock fell, and that there was no need to do any rockfall mitigation work where the accident occurred.
In Glenwood Canyon, some 20 boulders struck the interstate early Monday morning, with some of them poking holes through elevated sections of the roadway. The largest boulder weighed about 66 tons.
Transportation officials have been anxious to reopen the major east-west thoroughfare to one-lane traffic in each direction. Restricted travel would continue during repair work, which is expected to take months.
However, reopening the highway has hinged on eliminating a large boulder that hadn’t come down Monday but was considered to be in danger of falling in the same area.
Crews weren’t able to dislodge it Tuesday, and they brought in a helicopter Wednesday to help deliver equipment needed to drill holes and place explosives into the rock. Shanks said efforts were delayed Wednesday when an air compressor to be used in drilling proved too heavy for the helicopter to lift. Instead, drillers had to use an electric generator that didn’t provide as much power.
“Drilling took an awful long time. They had a long day of drilling and prepping that area to pack those explosives,” Shanks said.
The good news is that when the rock finally was blown up around 6 p.m., it apparently broke up into enough pieces that it did little further damage to the highway, Shanks said. She said crews will work today to remove any other remaining loose rocks on the hillside and clean up debris brought down on the roadway.
Most of the work needed to repair Monday’s damage enough to get a lane open in each direction already has been done, so if everything else goes smoothly today, those lanes should be ready to be opened, Shanks said.
Rockfall in the same location of I-70 on Thanksgiving Day of 2004 closed the highway for a little more than a day. Shanks said a sinkhole on I-70 in the Vail area in 2003 resulted in a closure of about 56 hours.