Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon reopened Saturday morning with a heavily damaged stretch in the Blue Gulch area being limited to one lane in each direction. The Colorado Department of Transportation updated the status of the roadway that had experienced damaging mudslides.
Engineering teams completed visual inspections around Blue Gulch this past week and it’s “structurally sound to support one lane in each direction,” said Keith Stefanik, CDOT deputy incident commander, at a Friday news conference.
On Saturday morning, traffic volume through the canyon was manageable, and there were no backups, said Matt Inzeo, CDOT’s communications director.
Highway officials warn that airborne dust could cause some sight problems in the canyon for drivers as construction is ongoing. Motorists, especially motorcyclists, are urged to drive with caution.
Drivers should expect top speeds as low as 35 mph along some stretches as repair and construction work continues, said Shoshana Lew, CDOT executive director.
CDOT crews will continue to monitor for inclement weather and may close the highway again if conditions are deemed unsafe, officials said.
On the west end of the canyon, crews have focused on washing and cleaning operations from No Name to the Hanging Lake Tunnel. On the east end of the canyon, crews have focused on moving dirt behind a barrier and exposing and cleaning drains. Crews have been hauling out hundreds of loads of debris and taking it to a temporary dump site at Bair Ranch and on Colorado 82.
Emergency repair plans and specifications have been distributed to about a dozen contractors, and CDOT expects project bids by Thursday, Stefanik said. CDOT plans to award contracts Friday with long-term construction starting Aug. 23.
CDOT officials hope to have the entire canyon stretch back to full capacity and normal, pre-damage levels by Thanksgiving.
The Grizzly Creek Rest Area will not open immediately because there is currently no power to the area and the Hanging Lake Rest Area will remain closed until it is cleared to reopen by the U.S. Forest Service. The Bair Ranch Rest Area will remain closed to the public and will be used as a CDOT emergency area. The No Name and Shoshone rest areas will reopen Saturday when the highway reopens.
CDOT officials Friday said about $1 million has been spent so far and they expect final costs, when work is finished around Thanksgiving, to be about $116 million.
Work, repairs and the traffic flow will be dependent on weather, highway officials said, as rains over the Grizzly Creek fire could cause new, additional mud, rock and debris slides. The canyon has been shut down since July 31. Two lanes of traffic are available in each direction through most of the canyon.