FRIDAY MORNING UPDATE: I-70 Reopens Through Glenwood Canyon In Western Colorado After Flood Threat Moves Away

EAGLE COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4)– The Grizzly Creek burn scar received significant precipitation Wednesday night into Thursday but by Thursday evening, the highway through Glenwood Canyon remained clear of any significant debris.

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“It’s certainly a threat, which is why we’re staying closed. We are starting to see some of the effects just from all of that precipitation as it collects in the canyon. We have not seen a significant material flow at this point at least that I’ve seen,” said Matt Inzeo, Communications Director for CDOT and Special Advisor to the Executive Director.

Inzeo said he was constantly checking for updates along with everyone else at CDOT headquarters, “We’re all worried about it. As of early this morning, There was already an inch of rain on several rain gauges that NOAA keeps, it’s obviously been precipitating since then.”

Inzeo noted that this was the first major weather event since the last time the canyon sustained major damage.

The constant closures have prompted numerous discussions in the bout establishing a faster alternative route. Something the canyon’s neighboring counties have previously had disagreements about, but now, have similar goals.

“There needs to be political will and that was not the case maybe with previous county commissioners,” said Garfield County Commissioner, Tom Jankovsky. “That’s since changed. Both the Eagle County and Garfield County commissioners want to work with one another to at least get Cottonwood Pass up to county road standards.”

Of the $116 million requested by CDOT in federal emergency assistance to repair the canyon, $50 million has been set aside for research and future construction of an alternative route.

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“I think the state’s CDOT’s process of studying this and actually having an environmental impact statement and letting the public participate is extremely important,” said Jankovsky.

The counties can also choose to fund improvements themselves. Jankovsky said Eagle County estimates to get Cottonwood Pass up to county road standards on its side, would cost around $15 million. There’s not a current estimate on the Garfield County side but Jankovosky said it would be less.

For now, Cottonwood Pass is not a viable option. It’s mostly unpaved and very narrow in spots.

“I have to thank Eagle County because they put up flaggers on both sides of that narrow section where we just have one lane and they’ve kept Cottonwood Pass open because of that,” he said.

He says going through CDOT to make the improvements could take as long as two years- either way, a route other than the Northern detour needs to be established. He says it’s unlikely that will involve Independence Pass.

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“From Eagle County and Garfield County’s standpoint, it’s Cottonwood Pass, I do know the Pitkin County Commissioners have talked about you know, improvements to Independence Pass because of this as well, but once you get over Independence Pass, you have to get through Aspen and there are traffic issues within the community of Aspen as well.”

Jankovsoky said people have complained it takes more time to get through Aspen than over Independence Pass.

“I think Cottonwood Pass does need to be improved if nothing else, we have 40,000 people sitting on our side and 40,000 people sitting on the Eagle County side that need access back and forth,” he continued, “We need to have that access and what we have right now is not adequate.”

Jamie Leary