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Reopening of I-70 welcome news to impacted businesses

CDOT says the full reopening of I-70 may happen by Thanksgiving.

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. — It's been quite the summer for travelers along I-70, with on-and-off closures of the major highway, it posed problems and headaches for tourists and business owners in Glenwood Canyon.

But for now, all of that eases up as the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) partially reopened the road Saturday.

"If I could physically do a back flip, I would do back flips because it's a real lifeline for us," said Lisa Langer, the director of tourism promotions for Glenwood Springs. "I-70 is such an important artery, and without it our supply chains are slowed or sometimes, you know, instead of a week, it's two weeks to get things to restaurants."

CDOT said the full reopening of the highway in that particular spot may happen by Thanksgiving.

While the risk of flash flooding still poses a threat to the canyon, some business owners are optimistic that things will run smoothly once again. 

Credit: Slope & Hatch
Slope & Hatch in Glenwood Springs.

Greg Lemkau owns both Rocky Mountain Pizza and Slope & Hatch in Glenwood Springs. He explained that business did take a hit during the closure. 

"We were seeing between easily a 20% decrease on the good days and 45% decrease on the real bad days," he said. 

But he also says there were plenty of tourists that took the hours-long detour through Steamboat Springs, which helped during the on-and-off closures. 

RELATED: I-70 closure means longer trips for trucking companies

"And they came over and they were certainly helpful and we were happy to see them," he said. 

Now, they're hoping for business to get back to normal once again, after going through several periods of abnormal times (COVID and the Grizzly Creek Fire included).

"So we're still here and ready to rock and roll, but we're hoping that we're going to see a tick up," he said. "It's a little bit of unusual timing because everybody starting to go back to school so people may have thrown in the towel on plans that they did have because they didn't know when the canyon was going to open back up. We'll just have to see what happens but we're staffed and ready to go."

RELATED: Glenwood Springs worries what mudslide, I-70 closure will do to economy

It's because of several events of the last year and a half, that Lemkau feels prepared and optimistic for the future. 

"We've been through enough now with the pandemic and the fire and and now this, that although we don't want it to happen again and again and again, you kind of know that you just have to roll with it," he said. 

Langer with the tourism department adds that the reopening will be helpful for businesses. 

"That's a huge hit to the economy when, you know, a restaurant has to wait an extra week to get their supplies or there's a service fee now implemented because they have to drive further," she said. 

Meanwhile, other businesses in the Denver metro also needed I-70 to get supply for their establishment. 

Credit: Mat Gaskins
Heinie's Market in Wheat Ridge.

The owner of Heinie's Market in Wheat Ridge, Heinz Silz, explained that 75 to 80% of the supply for their store comes from local farms in the western part of Colorado. 

The way they have their trucks get out there is of course, using I-70 through Glenwood Springs. 

“We’re still getting everything in here that we need to get in here – we just have to do twice the work to get it here," Silz said. “It’s really tough -- you gotta change the time you leave and give yourself twice the time to get there and back. In fact you don’t go in one day – it goes into two usually.”

He added that trucks to ship food to the store would take the detour, which is why it would take longer and take more work for those drivers. 

Now, he's pleased the road is open again, and is excited for things to get back to normal. 

“Even if we have to sit there for an hour or two to get through, it’s way better than going around," he said.