DENVER (KDVR) — Excessive speed on poor road conditions is the cause of crashes that closed Glenwood Canyon so far this year, the Colorado Department of Transportation said in a release.

“Driving too fast for conditions has contributed or caused all of the crash closures in the Canyon so far in 2023,” CDOT said.

Master Sergeant Gary Cutler with Colorado State Patrol pointed the blame towards speeding.

“People right now are just not paying attention to speed limits,” Cutler said. “It doesn’t matter what the roadways are doing whether it’s snow or dry roads or anything like these speeds are too high and that’s why these vehicles are wrecking.” 

The department implemented lower speed limits and Colorado State Patrol beefed up checkpoints in order to reduce the number of crashes during the icy, wintry conditions this past week.

We all know that Glenwood Canyon is a fragile and complex environment prone to extreme weather and slick conditions in the winter. Hard-working highway maintainers, state and local law enforcement officers, and other emergency responders from across the state have dedicated countless hours in recent years managing fires, mudslides, snowstorms and other events in this area. The whole team is working creatively to employ even more strategies and resources like slower speeds, metering traffic, and added enforcement in conjunction with major long-term improvements to resiliency and accelerating alternative routes and we will continue to evaluate all options available.  But we need motor vehicle operators to follow traffic safety laws and recognize that their decisions — especially when it comes to large trucks — have far-reaching consequences for the entire region.

CDOT Director Shoshana Lew

Angie Anderson, president and CEO of Glenwood Springs Chamber of Commerce said approximately $1 million is lost for every hour that I-70 is closed on the mountain corridor.

“There is a major economic impact, no question about it,” Anderson said. “It certainly causes traffic backup here in town, but more importantly it makes it difficult for people to get to and from work. It’s difficult to get goods transported, visitors here, all of the above.”

History of Glenwood Canyon closures

Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon has been a notable spot since the Grizzly Creek Fire ravaged more than 32,000 acres in that area in 2020. The highway was intermittently closed during the fire and the last couple of years after several mudslides from the burn scar and damage from mudslides.

The state estimated the repairs to I-70 through the canyon after the major mudslides would cost $116 million, which it requested from the federal government.

CDOT closed I-70 through Glenwood Canyon for weeks while crews repaired the damaged road and added extra safety precautions to reduce future closures due to possible mudslides.

CDOT is working on major improvements to alternate routes like CO 13 and safety improvements to US 40 and US 285. The department said it is also prioritizing improvements to Cottonwood Pass.

Cutler said CSP is increasing its presence along the canyon through the weekend and beyond.

“It’s all about watching what you’re doing watching your speed and paying attention to what’s coming up on the roads,” Cutler said.