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An Problematic Transportation Issue Facing Mesa County, I-70 through Glenwood Canyon

Updated: Jan 6, 2023

Front Range shoppers, or, indeed anyone who lives east of Dotsero, have little concern when summer thunderstorms unleash tons and tons of rock and mud across Interstate 70 in Glenwood Canyon. They continue their shopping excursions, going about the business of buying groceries and other products, knowing that the shelves in their favorite stores will be well-stocked. The trucks that bring products to their communities will arrive on time.

But those of us on the Interstate 70 corridor west of Dotsero watch those thunderstorms and wonder whether the shelves at the grocery store will be stocked when we next need to replenish our pantries. The consequences of the Grizzly Creek Fire in 2020 were, and still are, very real to us. When the mud and rocks come down, Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon shuts down, and the trucks bringing food and other of life’s necessities to our part of the state can’t get here. One such shutdown lasted for 30 days. Not to mention all those tourist dollars that get turned around at the east entrance to Glenwood Canyon. We pay a big price. And every time thunderstorm clouds develop, which is often in Colorado, it brings the potential for yet another major, and costly, disruption.

Unfortunately, the solution is not an easy one. To date, we haven’t even decided what that fix is.

It is incumbent upon the Legislature to make this a front-burner issue. It’s time for — past time, actually — the Colorado Department of Transportation to begin serious work on solving the Glenwood Canyon problem.

Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon may be the most obvious transportation problem facing Mesa County. But it is hardly the only one.

The big picture on transportation problems in Colorado is one that will require institutional change. CDOT continues to focus too much time, energy and money on Front Range projects.

Strong legislative representation from rural Colorado could and should go a long way toward changing that mindset. It won’t be easy, but I think it can be done.

I would also urge CDOT to return to a meat-and-potatoes mindset, and remember its first job and top priority should be improving transportation alternatives for people and vehicles. Highway construction needs to be more of a priority than such things as bicycle lanes and wildlife crossings.

Send me to the Legislature and I will work to see that CDOT pays attention to transportation in Mesa County and other rural areas of Colorado.

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