Mudslide detours cause bumper-to-bumper traffic in mountain towns

Local News

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. (KDVR) — Road closures caused by mudslides are causing traffic headaches in small mountain communities.

Bumper-to-bumper traffic is not something locals are to seeing on their streets in Steamboat Springs. But Mother Nature has changed that.

Summer rainstorms have been pouring upon massive burn scars, causing mudslides that reroute traffic through usually less-trafficked areas.

“Noise pollution is quite tremendous, and it’s pretty alarming,” Steamboat Springs resident Lara Craig said.

Mudslides over the weekend forced traffic to detour off Interstate 70 and into Steamboat. That led to major traffic jams in this normally calm community.

“It does happen when these huge tractor trailers are coming through town, and people are trying to cross and people are stuck in the middle of the intersections,” Shannon Lukens said.

Mudslides blocked access to portions of Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon on July 20, 2021. (Credit: Colorado Department of Transportation)

Lukens lives in Steamboat Springs and is a news director for seven mountain town radio stations.

Lukens has heard drivers’ complaints and has had them herself.

“We were in Craig driving down Highway 40 this weekend. We were behind a semi going 40 miles an hour, and it’s a 65 miles per hour zone in some places, and it’s frustrating and dangerous,” Lukens said.

The detour troubles are worsened by an ongoing construction project on U.S. 40 along the Rabbit Ears Pass area.

The Colorado Department of Transportation told the Problem Solvers construction is suspended as soon as possible when traffic is detoured toward the project.

“I think people are still hitting a slowdown, and they are still pretty frustrated,” CDOT spokesperson Tracy Trulove said. “The (construction) team is making a concerted effort to stop work, which is not even good for the project.”

CDOT advises drivers to use COtrip.org to plan drives. They say other apps, like Google Maps, often send drivers to dirt road or local access roads, so they advise sticking to CDOT’s route planners to find the best local route.

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