Portion of Colorado's busy Interstate 70 reopens after weekend flooding opened sinkhole

Wednesday, June 4th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

VAIL, Colo. (AP) -- A section of Colorado's busiest east-west highway reopened early Wednesday for the first time since weekend floodwaters washed out a culvert and opened a 22-foot-wide sinkhole.

"It's still going to be pretty tight. We're down to one lane each direction," said Steve Fitzgerald of the Colorado Department of Transportation.

A 24-mile stretch of Interstate 70, which carries up to 30,000 vehicles a day in June, had been closed in both directions since Sunday, when melting snow and heavy rain flooded mountain creeks, damaged the highway and flooded parts of Vail.

Crews working around-the-clock replaced the culvert under the eastbound lanes, repaved the roadway and opened it to one lane of traffic in each direction just after 3 a.m. Wednesday.

Vehicles wider than 12 feet still must take a 54-mile detour south.

Crews began repairing the westbound lanes early Wednesday, but it could be two weeks before all four lanes are reopened, Fitzgerald said.

The floods in Vail forced scores of residents out of their homes Sunday, but they were allowed to return on Monday. Many found their basements or lower floors flooded.

At least two people have drowned and a third is missing in kayak or canoe accidents in Colorado's swollen rivers since Saturday.