GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. — The Colorado Department of Transportation is advising travelers of a prolonged closure of Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon after a recent assessment following heavy rain and flooding found “extreme damage” to the highway.
I-70 through Glenwood Canyon was shut down Thursday after more than 100 people had to spend the night on the highway, including nearly 30 who took refuge in a tunnel, after rain over the Grizzly Creek Fire burn scar triggered mudslides.
CDOT said damage to the viaduct structure from the latest round of heavy rain and flooding Saturday night was described by their engineering staff as unlike anything they had seen before. The agency did not provide detailed information about the damage.
They are recommending motorists use the alternative northern route, and truckers avoid I-70 all together and take Interstate 80 through Wyoming. There is no estimated time on when that stretch of highway will reopen as crews will continue to clear debris and mudflow when weather conditions are safe.
The northern alternate route includes at least a two-hour-long detour. Westbound traffic can exit at Silverthorne and travel north on Colorado 9 to U.S. 40, then west to Craig. From Craig, take Colorado 13 south to Rifle and back on I-70. Eastbound traffic will need to exit at Rifle and take the same route in the other direction.
Glenwood Canyon has been shut down several times over the past two months after mudslides washed up on the roadway, at times trapping vehicles between slides.
CDOT said there is no easy solution to the problem. The source of the mudslides is the Grizzly Creek Fire burn scar. The human-caused fire started August 10, 2020 in Glenwood Canyon and burned more than 32,000 acres in the White River National Forest. CDOT said due to the size of the burn scar and terrain of the canyon, mitigation is nearly impossible.
Drivers planning to use I-70 or other high-country roads should bring supplies with them in case they need to spend extended time in the car, CDOT said. At the minimum, this can include water, snacks, flashlight, and a blanket.