I-70 Through Glenwood Canyon Is Finally Open Again

August 24, 2020
Interstate 70 reopened to traffic early on Monday, Aug. 24, 2020. Interstate 70 reopened to traffic early on Monday, Aug. 24, 2020. Courtesy CDOT
Interstate 70 reopened to traffic early on Monday, Aug. 24, 2020.

The Colorado Department of Transportation reopened Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon early Monday.

Motorists should expect slow travel and they won't be allowed to stop anywhere in the canyon, officials say. Two-way traffic will use the east-bound deck, which, at some stretches in the 12-mile-long canyon, sits below the west-bound deck.

CDOT closed the road two weeks ago when the Grizzly Creek fire tore through the canyon, burning many of the pine trees and other vegetation.

"It's apocalyptic," regional CDOT director Michael Goolsby said just a few days before the reopening. "There are areas up there that are destroyed. It's terrible. It pains me to see it."

CDOT spokeswoman Elise Thatcher said it's imperative that motorists resist the temptation to rubber-neck as they drive through the canyon.

"Maybe have a second person or third person so you can have someone drive while you take a look at the scenery," she suggested.

The two-week closure was the longest ever for the vital east-west link, Goolsby said. It required a lengthy detour that wreaked havoc on area businesses and other travels.

The burn means mudslides and falling rocks are far more likely now, especially on the west-bound deck that's directly under areas where debris could come down. That part of the road was already under construction, and Thatcher said it isn't yet clear when that will reopen to traffic.

She said to expect occasional closures both for safety reasons and to allow crews to start repair work.

"How long this continues really depends on what we see over the next couple of weeks, and just the nature of the canyon walls and what our experts see," Thatcher said.

The road itself and the viaducts and bridges that support it appear to be in good shape, Thatcher said, requiring few repairs. "It is very excellent news," she said.

Power poles that burned will need to be replaced, though. And that will require closing the road.