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With I-70 in Glenwood Canyon closed, towns see lots of detour traffic

I-70 has closed several times in Glenwood Canyon after mudslides in the Grizzly Creek Fire burn scar.
Credit: KUSA

LEADVILLE, Colo. — Another day, another closure on Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon. 

The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) described the impact caused by mudslides in the area this weekend as “extreme.”

Engineers at the department say the damage to the viaduct structure in the canyon is “unlike anything they had seen before.”

RELATED: I-70 through Glenwood Canyon closed indefinitely after 'extreme damage' from heavy rain and flooding

As I-70 remained closed Sunday, travelers are forced to detour around the canyon. For towns along some of the new routes, it’s bringing an overwhelming amount of traffic and visitors.

"We definitely feel the effects of it from the closures," said Talus Schreiber, who works at several restaurants in town. "As soon as it closes, you have traffic building up for miles."

Rain leads to mudslides. Mudslides close I-70. And when that happens, people end up in towns like Leadville along some of the detour routes.

"We’re not used to our main street being completely a line of cars all the time," said Christine Street, owner of Treeline Kitchen in Leadville. 

The sound of the dinner rush has grown louder inside Street's restaurant. The pandemic brought more people to small towns like Leadville. The detours keep the visitors coming.

RELATED: I-70 detour traffic causes headaches in Steamboat Springs

"We’ve been on a two-hour waitlist almost every night for the past month. Then with the interstate closing it’s like a new level," said Street. "We have talked to a lot of people who are stuck and they’re just like, please get us a table. We’ll do anything to get in. They’ve been driving all day having to detour four or five hours and we just feel so terrible when we can’t feed everyone."

Down the street at Scott’s Ice Cream, Schreiber serves up more scoops than ever, if he can make it to work.

"New Leadville is incredibly busy," said Schreiber. "Definitely almost got hit multiple times already today."

Coming through Leadville isn’t the only route you can take that’ll get you around Glenwood Canyon and the I-70 closure. CDOT’s recommended detour takes you up north through Steamboat Springs.

The unexpected detour brings with it unexpected consequences.

"We can’t handle the amount of people who are in some ways stranded," said Street. "It’s always a blessing and a curse to have too much business."

CDOT hasn't said how long it believes I-70 will remain closed as crews clear the debris and fix the road. With more rain expected this week, we could also see more storms in the area where mudslides have occurred.


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