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Glenwood Canyon Mudslides Caused A 'Pothole From Hell' On I-70

UPDATE: Traffic Moving Again Through Glenwood Canyon For First Time This Month After I-70 Closure Due To Mudslides

(CBS4) - Colorado Department of Transportation crews and contractors are working as fast they can to take advantage of good weather to clear and repair Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon, and on Saturday a partial reopening is finally scheduled to happen. Fierce mudslides came down the canyonside and heavily damaged the interstate on July 29.

Gov. Jared Polis
(credit: CBS)

The Blue Gulch area at milemarker 123.5 has the most damage with what Gov. Jared Polis this week called a "pothole from hell." Crews hauled out more than 200 loads of debris on Wednesday alone. On Thursday they worked on geotextile and road base into place.

Glenwood Canyon Pictures (CDOT)
(credit: CDOT)

West of Hanging Lake tunnel, crews finished putting 156 super sacks into place to act as temporary rockfall protection. Super sacks are bags of bedding sand and each weighs 3,000 pounds. They also diverted Blue Creek to the west and the next drain.

Glenwood Canyon Pictures (CDOT)2
(credit: CDOT)

The current plan is to have one I-70 lane in each direction open through the canyon Saturday afternoon with complete repairs made by Thanksgiving. The governor did warn there will be brief closures at times to allow crews to work.

Both the No Name Rest Area and the Shoshone Rest Area will reopen when the interstate reopens. CDOT did say the Grizzly Creek Rest Area will not open immediately; it does not have electricity because Xcel Energy moved its generator to Shoshone Dam. The Hanging Lake Rest Area will be closed until the U.S. Forest Service clears the trail. CDOT is using the Bair Rest Area for emergency mobilization so it will also stay closed.

CBS4 Meteorologist Ashton Altieri reports the weather is expected to cooperate for the I-70 reopening. The chance for a rainstorm that might cause a mudslide is no higher than 10% through Saturday in the Central Colorado Basin. Higher chances develop on Sunday.

Why Are There Mudslides In Glenwood Canyon In 2021?

Several mud and debris flows in Glenwood Canyon have happened during heavy rainstorms this summer, but none were as destructive as the ones on July 29. The mudslides are a result of the Grizzly Creek Fire, which burned up and down the canyon walls in 2020. The 32,631 acre fire left a burn scar on the blackened canyonside that has little plant grown in it to keep the soil from eroding when heavy rainstorms pass through.

What Is The Recommended Detour Around The Closure?

CDOT recommends drivers take the alternative route to get around the I-70 closure. That route is to the north of the canyon and adds approximately 2.5 hours to the drive in either direction.

"It's just not an ideal place for short detours," said CDOT Region 3 Transportation Director Mike Goolsby in July.

The following is the route to take:

WESTBOUND I-70: Motorists coming from the Denver metro area or Interstate 25 can travel westbound on I-70 to Silverthorne, then turn north onto Highway 9. In Kremmling, travelers should turn onto westbound Highway 40 towards Steamboat Springs. After reaching Craig, motorists can return south via Highway 13 towards Rifle. Access to I-70 westbound is at Rifle.

(credit: CBS)

EASTBOUND I-70: Motorists traveling eastbound from Utah or Grand Junction can reach the Denver metro area by traveling north from Rifle on Highway 13 to Craig. From there, head east on Highway 40 through Steamboat Springs. Either take Highway 131 south to Wolcott and onto I-70 from there or continue on Highway 40 through to Kremmling and head south on Highway 9, then join up with eastbound I-70 again at Silverthorne.

RELATED: Glenwood Springs Visitors Say It's Worth The Drive Around I-70 Closure

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