GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. (CBS4) – Gov. Jared Polis says he will declare a state disaster for the flooding and mudslide damage to Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon. It’s unknown when the road could reopen. Polis says he also intends to request a federal declaration under the Stafford Act.
“There are areas that are under 10 feet or more of mud at this point. Until that can be removed we won’t know the exact damage,” Polis said at a press conference on Monday.
The section of interstate has been closed since Thursday night after heavy rain sent monumental amounts of debris on the road.
With regard to when the interstate will reopen, “The best case scenario is a few days, ” Polis said. However, he said it might be a few weeks.
“I know this closure has a big impact on Colorado,” Polis said. “We still are not out of this yet. We need to watch closely for the next few weeks, month, and it could get worse.”
The slide not only covered the road, but filled the Colorado River and diverted the water creating even more issues the state has to deal with.
“It’s diverting up against the highway in some areas causing more damage. Or against the other side of the river where it could eventually erode the railway,” said Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Public Safety Stan Hilkey.
The state is working with federal departments like the Army Corps of Engineers, and other water entities to properly address the issues in the river.
When the road is able to reopen it will likely be one-lane of traffic in each direction. Polis said he expects a fully operation interstate by the winter.
“What’s really important is to get it fixed before ski season. There’s more alternatives in summer for safer travel and scenery. It’s absolutely critical to be fully functioning by ski season,” Polis said.
The governor was scheduled to see the damage firsthand on Monday but more precipitation in Glenwood Canyon delayed his tour.
“I was planning on joining helicopter surveillance of the damage today but due to rain and hail the choppers aren’t flying and the damage is potentially going to get even worse,” Polis stated on social media on Monday afternoon.
On Sunday, the Colorado Department of Transportation described the damage to the interstate as extreme. They went on to say senior supervisors and engineers said they’d never seen this amount of damage.
Drivers are being detoured up to Steamboat Springs, and truck drivers are urged to take Interstate 80 through Wyoming.
Colorado State Patrol joined the governor during Monday’s news conference. They ask drivers to drive safely along the alternate routes and check the routes before you leave. CSP troopers will be assigned to those alternate routes to help maintain safety, they say.
On Monday, CDOT announced it will postpone a three month-long closure of Highway 285 due to the situation on I-70. It’s not clear when the closure will end up happening.
A project closing Highway 50 was also postponed, CDOT said Monday.