I-70 opening ends detour through Steamboat

4 days of closure brought traffic to some local businesses

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— Amid all of the fall-out from this week’s Glenwood Canyon rockslide that closed Interstate 70 for most of four days, there is the temporary hash-brown-out at McDonald’s restaurant in Craig.

“We ran out of hash browns and some fry boxes this morning,” franchise owner Chris Nichols said Thursday. “Fortunately, we have a truck due in at 5 p.m.”

By 4 p.m. Thursday, the Co­­lo­rado Department of Trans­portation announced it had reopened a lane in each direction through the canyon. The speed limit was reduced to 40 mph, and some wide trucks were restricted from using the narrow lanes.

Nichols said that during a two-day period this week, sales at his restaurant in Craig were up 20 percent and business was up 13 percent at his McDonald’s at U.S. Highway 40 and Pine Grove Road in Steamboat Springs.

“We’re definitely feeling the impact,” Nichols said. “People are coming in and asking for directions and how long it will be before (the interstate) is open. A lot are using the restrooms, but a lot are getting food and drinks.”

At the independent Rabbit Ears Motel in downtown Steam­boat, owner Greg Koehler said he’s seen a modest increase in business, enough to help him fill his motel Wednesday night.

“I had five rooms to rent at 5 p.m., and by 5:30, they were gone,” Koehler said.

U.S. 40 — via Colorado High­way 9 from Silverthorne to the east and Colorado Highway 13 to the west — constituted the primary east/west bypass around Glen­wood Canyon this week, and although the increased traffic was clearly evident, it didn’t snarl rush-hour traffic in Steamboat.

Hayden Town Manager Russ Martin said traffic on U.S. 40 had been heavier than usual through Hayden, particularly truck traffic. He noted that the Kum & Go there seemed particularly busy.

Koehler said the detour through Steamboat and Craig was confusing to at least one family he hosted this week that had planned a vacation in Snowmass. They had flown into Denver and rented a car, planning to take I-70 to Glenwood Springs and then head south to Pitkin County.

“I spent quite a while on the phone with them,” Koehler said. Ultimately, he was able to reassure them that driving to Snowmass via Steamboat, Craig, Meeker and Rifle was feasible.

The vacationers traveled on to Craig, where Nichols surmised that his restaurant there might have seen a greater bump in business because of its close proximity to Colo. 13 and possibly the abundance of truck parking in the nearby K-Mart parking lot.

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