FOX31 Denver

CDOT placing car-sized sandbags to protect I-70 through Glenwood Canyon

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. (KDVR) — As Colorado prepares to reopen portions of Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon, the state is turning to something new to keep drivers safe: sandbags.

But these so-called “super sacks” are no ordinary sandbags. They weigh more than 2,000 pounds and fill the space of a small car.

“The best equivalent I could give you right now is if you’ve ever seen a wrecking ball, a big wrecking ball, about that equivalent,” Colorado Department of Transportation deputy chief engineer Keith Stefanik said.

Stefanik said it’s the first time he’s seen these sandbags used during his career at CDOT, but he’s optimistic they’ll protect drivers along the corridor.

Wednesday, CDOT announced plans to reopen one lane of traffic in each direction through Glenwood Canyon after removing hundreds of truckloads of debris from recent mudslides.

Cleanup progress on Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon as pictured on Aug. 11, 2021, nearly two weeks after I-70 was closed due to mud and rockslides. (Credit: Colorado Department of Transportation)

“We need to get this road open safely,” Stefanik said. “And we wanted to make sure that we had some additional protection for our users.”

Stefanik said crews placed between 100-150 super sacks on Wednesday on the west end of the canyon near Hanging Lake Tunnel.

They won’t protect against water or mud if additional slides occur, but Stefanik said they will stop loose boulders and rocks from crashing down on drivers.

“If we do get some rockfall that comes from the events that have already occurred, that will absorb the impact before it hits down on the westbound lanes,” he said.

CDOT may place as many as 300 super sacks in the coming days while working on more permanent rock wall solutions.