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Colorado Department of Transportation crews work to clear I-70 in Glenwood Canyon after the interstate closed due to recent mudslides on Aug. 5, 2021, in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. (Pool photo by RJ Sangosti, The Denver Post)

Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon could partially reopen as soon as Saturday afternoon, transportation officials said Wednesday.

Crews hope to open two lanes of traffic — one traveling in each direction — through an area that was buried in mud and debris. The reopening depends on weather. Torrential rains in drainages scarred by fire caused the mudslides and have slowed the clean up.

“If everything stays the same in terms of weather, it should be fine — assuming there is no rain causing another mudslide between now and Saturday,” said Victoria Graham, a spokeswoman for Gov. Jared Polis. Polis toured the area on Wednesday with CDOT and U.S. Forest Service officials.

The canyon has been closed since July 29, when mud and rock slides forced more than 100 people to spend the night on I-70, including nearly 30 who took refuge in a tunnel near the Hanging Lake exit.

The Colorado Department of Transportation warned it could take weeks to get the heavily traveled route back open after debris along the scar from last year’s Grizzly Creek fire slid onto the interstate and adjacent recreation path and into the Colorado River below.

On Tuesday, crews hauled out between 100 to 110 loads of debris at mile marker 123.5 near Blue Gulch, according to CDOT. Crews will continue to clean slide material from the road, barring weather conditions. 

CDOT’s engineering crews determined it was safe to partially reopen one westbound lane after additional debris is removed and temporary barriers, rockfall protection and other roadway safety devices are installed, according to a news release.

One eastbound lane may be reopened after crews reconstruct approximately 100 feet of roadway embankment and temporary asphalt pavement, in addition to roadway safety devices, CDOT said. 

Colorado received $11.6 million — or 10% of its total request for funding —  from the Federal Highway Administration Tuesday to help support repairs and cleanup along I-70. The expedited funding came one day after the governor made a request for $116 million.

Officials said they plan to use the emergency federal funding to help support debris removal and to study and construct safety improvements to alternate routes to Glenwood Canyon.

Olivia Prentzel is a general assignment writer based in Colorado Springs for The Colorado Sun, covering breaking news, wildfires and all things interesting impacting Coloradans. Before joining The Sun, Olivia covered criminal justice for The Colorado Springs Gazette. She’s also worked at newspapers in New Orleans and New Jersey, where she grew up. After graduating college, she lived in a tiny, rural town in southern Madagascar for three years as a Peace Corps volunteer. When not writing, Olivia enjoys backpacking and climbing Colorado’s tallest peaks.