DENVER (CBS4) – Safety closures along Interstate 70 west of Glenwood Canyon are putting a strain on travelers and the crews working to keep drivers safe. The Colorado Department of Transportation has been dealing with substantial activity along that stretch of highway for the past five weeks.
"It's certainly been a challenge. Right after the Grizzly Creek Fire hit us last year, we knew that mudslides were going to be in our future. What was unusual was that it took about 11 months for that prediction to finally come true," said Matt Inzeo, communications director for CDOT.
When approaching the closure on I-70 westbound, CDOT suggests drivers use the northern alternate route. It's a route that turned Wessam Shahrouri's three-hour trip to Palisade into a six-hour trek through Yampa Valley.
"We thought it would be cleared up by the time we started heading there, then we slowly realized it wasn't clearing up," said Shahrouri. "Google Maps and Apple Maps were giving us different directions. We started wondering if we should turn around."
According to CDOT, motorists coming from the Denver metro area or Interstate 25 can travel westbound on I-70 to Silverthorne, then turn north onto CO 9. In Kremmling, travelers should turn onto westbound US Highway 40 towards Steamboat Springs. After reaching Craig, drivers can return south via CO 13 towards Rifle and access I-70 westbound in Rifle.
"We're taking steps to make sure that detour routes are appropriate both for vehicular travel and for commercial vehicles that have to make sure goods continue to get to store shelves, even with these disruptions," said Inzeo. "We look to lessen those impacts whenever we can, but we're going to have to make some adaptations so people can get where they need to go."
Maintaining this stretch of I-70 has been a game of whack-a-mole for CDOT. Now they're enlisting the help of crews around the state following last week's reoccurring safety closures.
"These are crews that in many cases have been working 12 hours on and 12 hours off for a month now. We've started the process of rotating this past weekend," said Inzeo. "There were crews from the Denver area who went in and did three days of shifts, just to give those local crews a break. We've got some folks from southeastern Colorado who are going to make the trip up to Glenwood Springs today."
CDOT says the best they can do is be prepared to respond. As for drivers, be prepared for anything. CDOT recommends traveling through this area during the mornings, as opposed to the afternoons. Staying up to date on current weather forecasts and following CDOT's closure alerts through their website and social media could help drivers avoid hours-long detours.
CDOT has 3,300 employees and they're trying to recruit even more. In the next couple of weeks, CDOT is going to have career fairs, particularly in the Denver Metro area to find more workers.
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