Mudslide damage to Interstate 70 in a photo released Aug. 1 by the Colorado Department of Transportation. (CDOT)
Colorado has asked the federal government for $116 million in emergency funding to deal with the impacts of the historic mudslides that have forced a lengthy portion of Interstate 70 in Glenwood Canyon to close for 10 days and counting.
“The ongoing closure of I-70 continues to strain people and communities throughout the region and western Colorado, and also has significant implications for interstate travel and commerce. The corridor is vital for everything from long-haul freight to movement of agricultural products across the state to the ecotourism economy,” Gov. Jared Polis and Colorado Department of Transportation director Shoshana Lew wrote in a request for emergency aid on Sunday. “Federal support, including quick release of funds, will greatly assist our efforts to restore functionality to the interstate and allow people to have the connectivity they rely on.”
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A 17-mile stretch of I-70 east of Glenwood Springs has been closed since a major mudslide damaged the highway on July 29. The shutdown followed weeks of intermittent safety closures due to the threat of post-fire debris flows caused by heavy rains in the area burned by the 2020 Grizzly Creek Fire. Polis and CDOT officials said in a briefing last week that their initial goal is to reopen one lane of I-70 in each direction as soon as possible, though the ongoing threat of further debris flows could impact reopening.
Cost estimates covered by Colorado’s aid request include a total of $49 million in debris removal, damage repair and “geohazard mitigation”; $11 million to address impacts to alternate state highway routes and traffic control; $6 million in management, engineering and administration costs; and $50 million to study “future resiliency” needs in the I-70 corridor.
“While it is likely that this number in particular will evolve as we refine our estimates, we believe it is critical, from the outset of this process, to include this initial resiliency cost estimate and stress the importance of improving the safety of key alternate routes that are needed for the movement of people, goods, emergency operations, and the vitality of the supply chain within and through Colorado and the entirely of the intermountain west,” the letter to federal officials said.
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