The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) will close both directions of Interstate 70 at Georgetown Hill for one or two days next week for a large-scale rock removal operation.
Beginning at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, April 5, eastbound and westbound I-70 will be closed to through traffic between the U.S. 40/Empire (Exit 232) and Silverthorne (Exit 205) interchanges, allowing crews to safely bring down a large, unstable cluster of boulders located on the slope above the highway. Local traffic between Empire Junction and Georgetown (westbound) and between Silverthorne and Silver Plume (eastbound) still will be allowed to travel I-70 up to the closure points, closer to the rockfall site. Due the number of boulders that need to be removed, the highway is expected to remain closed until 5 p.m.
I-70 to U.S. 40 (Empire Junction), U.S. 40 west over Berthoud Pass to Kremmling, and State Highway 9 south to I-70 in Silverthorne (110 miles)
U.S. 285 southwest to Fairplay, State Highway 9 north over Hoosier Pass to I-70 in Frisco (101 miles)
“We know this closure will have major impacts but the safety of the traveling public is always our first priority. These boulders have the potential to come down on their own and we need to remove them before that happens,” says CDOT Regional Transportation Director Tony DeVito. “The highway has to be closed for this work but unfortunately we won’t know exactly how long it’s going to take until the work actually begins. Each layer of rock we remove will give us more information on what remains behind it that may also need to be addressed.”
If the mitigation is not completed on Tuesday, CDOT will need to close I-70 again from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesday, April 6. In addition, CDOT may need to also repair any fencing or netting that is damaged from the falling rock and debris.
“When you’re dealing with weathered and deteriorated slope conditions and wedged rocks, there is little predictability on “when” and “where exactly” the rocks will travel,” adds DeVito, “We absolutely cannot allow traffic to travel on Georgetown Hill while the work is occurring since falling rock could reach the roadway and break apart even further.”
CDOT, in coordination with the Georgetown Police Department, is asking residents who live below the potential path areas to evacuate their homes while removal operations are taking place for their safety. There are about five homes that have been identified as being in the area where rocks have the potential to land.
“There’s never a good time to have a full closure of I-70, especially during the daytime, but we need to get this done now because it’s the time of year we experience the recurring freeze and thaw along with those wet snows that make the mountainous areas more susceptible to rockfall,” says DeVito. “We cannot delay this…we would rather be proactive and bring this hazard down in a controlled method than be reactive. We will not risk public safety.”