I-70 reopens after massive rockslide | SummitDaily.com

I-70 reopens after massive rockslide

AP PhotoIn this photo released by the state Department of Transportation, state Department of Transportation workers work on a section of Interstate 70 that is closed Thursday, Nov. 25, 2004, near Glenwood Springs, Colo., after a rock slide that left boulders embedded about six feet deep into part of the highway.

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Interstate 70 finally reopened Friday about 30 hours after a massive rockslide caused a million dollars in damage and sent holiday travelers on a 220-mile detour.Crews worked all day Thanksgiving and through the night under wet and snowy conditions, opening the eastbound lanes about 2:30 p.m. and the westbound lanes at 3:20 p.m. The rockslide closed the interstate about 7:30 a.m. Thursday. About $1 million in damage to the roadway will take weeks – possibly months – to repair, said CDOT spokesperson Stacey Stegman on Friday. Travelers will be limited to one lane in each direction near the Hanging Lake Tunnel until the damage can be fixed.”This is the worst I’ve seen in my eight years,” Stegman said.Work crews on Friday blasted part of the rockfall that fell about two-thirds of the way down the canyon walls, and were balanced precariously above the highway just west of the Hanging Lake Tunnels.

Two dynamite blasts on Friday, one at first light and another shortly after, brought down what remained of about 200 tons of rock that fell about 1,500 feet from the limestone cliffs above the highway.The massive rockslide punched van-sized holes through the decking of the highway in both directions, forcing closure of the interstate in both directions between Glenwood Springs and Gypsum for more than 30 hours. Thanksgiving travelers were sent on a 220-mile detour around the canyon.CDOT geologists inspected a retaining wall under the westbound lanes of the highway where the falling rocks knocked out two panels.CDOT geology engineer Ty Ortiz said the direct cause of the rock fall is not known.”In areas like this, the final trigger is hard to say,” he said. A naturally recurring cycle of freezing and thawing expands and contracts joints in the rocks and, over time, the cycle will cause those weak spots to break loose.

Most trucks from Denver took the six-hour trip to Aspen to bypass the rubble. By 2 p.m. today, the first trucks were beginning to trickle into town.”It took me 10 hours. It usually takes four,” said delivery driver Chris Amos of Denver-based Beverage Distributors, parked outside of Carl’s Pharmacy. “The conditions of the roads on the detour were terrible – pretty much a sheet of ice.”City Market and Clark’s Market, Aspen’s two grocery stores, both reported fully-stocked shelves and were expecting deliveries late today.”We’re pretty much fine,” City Market spokesman Trail Daugherty said. “We get our eggs from Grand Junction, so those trucks weren’t impacted. And our normal supply truck should arrive later tonight.”Early media reports stated no one was injured because the interstate was closed earlier on Thursday morning while crews cleaned up after a truck had overturned about a half mile west of the Hanging Lake Tunnel.

In fact, according to the Colorado State Patrol, the truck overturned at 8:05 p.m. Wednesday, and the westbound lanes of I-70 were closed from 8:05 to 11 p.m. The eastbound lanes remained open. Scars of the fall were visible in the limestone cliffs on the north wall of the canyon Friday afternoon. Maintenance supervisor Weldon Allen of Grand Junction estimated the removal of loose rock above the highway and the rocks cleared from the lanes would be completed and the two lanes opened by mid-afternoon.”We’ll stockpile the rock for a high water year when we need it for rip rap,” Allen said.- The Associated Press and The Aspen Times contributed to this report

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