GARFIELD COUNTY - A massive rockslide on a 17-mile stretch of Interstate 70 is expected to keep the highway closed for days to come.
Around midnight Monday, dozens of rocks, some the size of semi-trucks, fell onto the highway. The rocks range in size from 3 feet to 10 feet in diameter. The largest is estimated to weight about 66 tons.
Stacey Stegman, the spokesperson for the Colorado Department of Transportation, says no cars were hit in the massive rockslide, which happened just west of the Hanging Lake Tunnel. The slide did punch two large holes in a westbound bridge and lanes. CDOT estimates one was about 10 feet long and 20 feet wide. Stegman says the rockslide also caused dozens of other holes and "dips" in the roadway.
Stegman says several large boulders are currently blocking both the westbound and eastbound lanes and the highway will likely remain closed for some time.
"I would say highly unlikely the road will be open this morning. We'll see as the day goes on if there's a way to move the boulders and get traffic onto eastbound lanes," Stegman said.
CDOT has implemented emergency contracting procedures and will be meeting with contractors over the next couple of days as they develop repair plans. The boulders are so large crews will likely have to blast them with explosives before being able to move them.
CDOT is thanking travelers for their patience as they work to repair the highway. Up to 25,000 vehicles a day travel that section, Stegman said.
Because of the rugged terrain, the shortest detour is more than 200 miles long, around the mountainous Flat Tops Wilderness Area. CDOT says U.S. Highway 40 or U.S. Highway 50 may be the best alternative routes for drivers who are trying to drive across the state.
"Unfortunately due to location/geometry there is no easy route around. We are sending crews through Steamboat," Stegman said.
CDOT listed the following alternate routes while repairs are completed:
From westbound I-70: exit at US 40/Empire to State Highway 13 and back to I-70; exit in Silverthorne and take State Highway 9 to US 40 and State Highway 13; exit at Wolcott/State Highway 131 to US 40 and State Highway 13.
From eastbound I-70: exit at Rifle/State Highway 13 to US 40 and back to I-70. Travelers may also wish to use US highways 160, 285 and 50 if traveling to destinations south.