Recurring mudslides in Glenwood Canyon have hampered more than car and truck travel: Amtrak’s trains haven’t been able to traverse a signature stretch of its California Zephyr route since Thursday. And on Bustang’s west route, the latest detour means bus riders now face a nearly 10-hour journey between Grand Junction and Denver.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said Monday that it could take as little as a few days or as long as a few weeks until the state can reopen Interstate 70 partially. But the tracks used by Amtrak may reopen this week — as long as the weather cooperates.
The highway, built on the north side of the canyon, has sustained the bulk of the damage from falling rocks and rivers of sludge rushing down its walls during downpours over the Grizzly Creek fire burn scar.
Across the Colorado River, the Union Pacific Railroad tracks along the canyon’s south wall also have been affected.
“We have cleared most of the debris on the tracks, but crews continue to work on clearing debris from the right of way,” wrote Robynn Tysver, a Union Pacific spokeswoman, in an email Tuesday. “Barring any additional delays caused by severe weather or unforeseen events, Union Pacific estimates the track will reopen sometime this week, perhaps by Wednesday.”
Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said Amtrak’s California Zephyr trains, which travel between Chicago and the San Francisco Bay Area, last rolled through the canyon — and the rest of central Colorado — on Thursday.
Since then, eastbound trains haven’t made it past Grand Junction, while westbound trains from Chicago have ended their journey at Denver Union Station — in some cases stranding passengers.
During a news conference Monday, Stan Hilkey, executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Safety, said debris that’s dammed up the river has diverted flowing water perilously close to the highway as well as the railroad tracks. State officials are working on plans to remove some debris and to take other actions that will improve the river’s flow, he said.
As for Bustang, the Colorado Department of Transportation, which oversees the statewide bus service, said Tuesday that it was restoring a stop in Glenwood Springs, a popular tourist destination just west of the canyon.
That, along with the buses’ usual rest stops, will make for even longer delays than other detoured drivers face.
Currently one eastbound and one westbound bus a day are traveling along Bustang’s detour route, which uses U.S. 40 and connects to I-70 at Rifle to the west of the canyon and Wolcott to the east. Both buses will head to Glenwood Springs from Rifle and then double back, CDOT says.
All told, the journey between Grand Junction and Denver now takes 9 hours and 45 minutes, compared to about 5 hours and 40 minutes prior to the canyon’s closure, CDOT says.
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