Wind halts Glenwood Canyon work; I-70 open Thursday
Downdrafts in Glenwood Canyon on Wednesday forced crews to halt helicopter work on a rockfall mitigation project that was expected to also close Interstate 70 during the day Thursday.
As a result, I-70 will be open through the canyon today and the Colorado Department of Transportation will need to reschedule the work.
That means traffic will no longer be diverted through Craig and Steamboat this week.
The agency said in a news release it will look for a time of low traffic volume in the canyon, possibly a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. When the work is rescheduled, I-70 likely will be closed from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., as was the case Wednesday.
Tracy Trulove, CDOT Region 3 communications manager, said the work might be scheduled for the second week of August. And while the team hoped to use only two days of closures for the project, the contract allows for up to four days, she said.
CDOT still hopes to get the work done in two back-to-back days, she said.
“Future closures in the canyon will now be scheduled to complete the necessary rockfall fencing work,” said Mike Fowler, project engineer.
Crews are working to install four new, heavy-duty rockfall fences on the northern canyon wall just west of Hanging Lake Tunnel.
These fences are built to protect the location of a major rockfall in February, which led to a nearly weeklong closure of the canyon, the longest since I-70 was constructed through Glenwood Canyon 24 years ago.
Two of these fences are being placed high on the canyon wall, the highest at about 300 feet, and their heavy steel posts needed to be hauled up by helicopter.
Unfortunately the wind kept crews from placing any of these posts Wednesday, said Trulove.
Two more fences will be constructed after the helicopter work, but they can be reached with a crane.
The closure Wednesday created high traffic from downtown Aspen to the airport as drivers took Colorado 82 over Independence Pass. Pitkin County sheriff’s deputies and Aspen officers turned away 20 oversize vehicles that were trying to go up Independence Pass despite the 35-foot length restriction.
Meanwhile, two semis stalled on Cottonwood Pass road, one of them jackknifed, closing down the road in both directions for more than two hours.
CDOT had advised against using this pass, as well as Fryingpan Road and Hagerman Pass, as detours.
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The Lower and Central Yampa River Basin, which include Craig, Hayde, Rangely, Dinosaur and Meeker, will be under a winter storm warning from the National Weather Service starting at 6 a.m. Thursday.