GRAND JUNCTION, Colo.
$11.6 million in emergency relief is only 10% of the requested amount to repair and reopen I-70, but the federal funds came fast and put to good use. State Representative Matt Soper (R) with District 54 says, “I-70 will be open through Glenwood Canyon starting late on Saturday.” CDOT Executive Director, Shoshana Lew says, “The plan for Saturday again, assuming the weather holds and pending a safety check at the end; is one lane on the upper deck, one lane on the lower deck. So, one lane in each direction.”
The Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce held a meeting with executive director Lew, and local, county, and state leaders to discuss the I-70 closure fix for the short term and long term, and State Representative Soper was there to ask about a permanent plan B. “What’s the long term future for alternate routes for I-70 because as we know, there’s probably going to be more mudslides and rockslides like we just saw,” said Soper.
The answer right now, is Cottonwood Pass that runs between the cities of Carbondale and Gypsum, but it’s going to take time, money, and cooperation. Soper says, “The state is going to be talking with the counties involved, which are Garfield and Eagle counties, the municipalities involved, and then they’re going to be spending up to $15 million to study this process.”
The long term fix for I-70 is slated to be completed by Thanksgiving, but local businesses can’t wait that long since the interstate is also a vein for commerce. Luckily, there were two requests for federal dollars. “One was made from the Department of Transportation for emergency funds to repair the interstate the other one was from FEMA for emergency disaster dollars,” said Soper.
Small businesses that can show they were impacted by the I-70 closure can apply for loans and grants and the chamber or Small Business Administration can point the way. Which leaves one final question. Will the mile of road destroyed by mud and rock be safe for travelers? Lew says, “The group on the ground has a high level of confidence that it can handle trucks full of mud and rock. They’ll do the final safety tests to make sure it can withstand according to all code specifications. The engineers will have to sign off with federal highways before we open it.”