I-70 closure causes concerns in Steamboat
Some traffic, no major backups as slide diverts cars to US 40
March 10, 2010
Steamboat Springs — Over-the-road trucks rumbled through Steamboat Springs in greater numbers than usual Tuesday afternoon, but civic leaders were looking out a month to the scheduled repaving of Lincoln Avenue/U.S. Highway 40.
The major highway that runs through Ski Town USA was designated one of two detours for Interstate 70 this week in the wake of a large rock slide that closed the four-lane highway in Glenwood Canyon. The slide occurred at about midnight Sunday.
"People are wondering if the closure will last through April 5," said Tracy Barnett, of Mainstreet Steamboat Springs.
That's the date when private contractors for the Colorado Department of Transportation are scheduled to begin preparing to tear up the asphalt paving on Steamboat's main street, which doubles as the major highway between Denver and Salt Lake City. The work is scheduled to take place in two phases, first during spring and suspending in June before resuming in fall. The plan is meant to reduce the impact on downtown commerce during the busy summer resort season.
City Public Works Director Philo Shelton said Tuesday afternoon that he hasn't been given any assurances about when the interstate closure will end, but he's optimistic it won't affect the construction project here.
"I think they'll get some portion of I-70 open before then," Shelton said. "That's my gut feeling. They just need some time."
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The Denver Post reported Tuesday that the I-70 closure and detour could last days, if not weeks, attributing that information to CDOT.
Shelton said he had been in touch with Grand Junction-based CDOT program engineer Dave Eller since the rock slide.
Crews working to clear and stabilize I-70 were concentrating some of their efforts Tuesday afternoon on breaking up a 20-foot boulder high above the highway, which they fear still could come down.
Although it was easy to observe that traffic through Steamboat Springs on U.S. 40 was heavier than usual Tuesday, it stopped short of creating traffic backups or snarls. To his knowledge, there are no traffic counts being taken, Shelton said, but to casual observers it did not appear that Steamboat was absorbing the full brunt of the I-70 traffic load.
"I think most of the trucks are going (north) to I-80" in Wyoming, Shelton said.
An observer in Craig said Tuesday morning that it did not appear that a high volume of traffic was traveling north through Moffat County to I-80 via Colorado Highway 13.
The detour seemed to be delivering a modest amount of additional commercial activity to Steamboat Springs.
Steamboat Hotel Manager Jay Wetzler said his property on U.S. 40 east of town picked up a few room nights Monday into Tuesday.
"Our log shows that we rented three or four rooms to people because of the detour. Several of them had driven (west) right up to Glenwood Canyon before having to turn around and come back up (Colorado Highway) 131" to Steamboat, Wetzler said Tuesday. "I had a trucker stop in this morning because he had to get his eight hours of rest."
On the east side of the highway at Pine Grove Road, Ski Haus Conoco was seeing more customers in its convenience store than usual, but nothing overwhelming.
"It's not like we had 10,000 people come to town," said Michael Marten, an employee at the store.
Many of the travelers who came by during the night shift Monday were people who had to get their children back in school in another city.
"The most common question was, 'How long will it take me to get to Grand Junction from here?'" Marten said.
— To reach Tom Ross, call 871-4205 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org