After driving on top of the mountain and visiting Buffalo Bill’s gravesite and another mansion, we drove westward to I-70 and we decided to make no more stops unless necessary and we didn’t until Deelow reminded me that Corvo have to do his call of nature every two hours. So we exit on one of the rest area outside of Glenwood Springs and walked around and did our thing. We went to the building and Deelow and Corvo waited for me and as I enter here is a piece of history that I saw.
Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon (the toughest 12 miles of the Interstate System)
In 1874 Glenwood Canyon was considered impassable: Even Ute Indian Trails avoided this narrow rugged gorge. In 1885 David Henry Moffat started driving the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad along the southern bank of the Colorado River, completing the project on October 5, 1887. the railroad had conquered the canyon! However, the canyon also impacted the railroad! General Motors Executive C.R. Osborn “Put the see in scenery” when he developed the concept of the Vista Dome passenger car while traveling through the canyon in July 4, 1944.
Colorado District Attorney Ed Taylor envisioned a highway through the canyon in 1887. It was not unitl 12 years later that funding was secured for the Taylor State Road from Denver to Grand Junction. Over $30,000 was soent pushing the single-lane road through the canyon from 1900 to 1902. The road was upgraded in 1914, and again in the 1930’s when highway 6 and 24 was built at a cost of $1.5 million. Planning for the interstate highway system in Colorado began in 1958. However, it was not until 1975 that the route through Glenwood Canyon was finally selected.
The Colorado Legislature called for “The Wonders of Human engineering to be blended with the Wonders of Nature.” The freeway you drive today meet these instructions: Terraced roadways, Viaducts and tunnels carry interstate 70 over reclaimed scars of Highway 6 and 24; cut and fill quantities were carefully balanced to use all the material; Talus slopes were stabilized for bridge foundations; special fences minimize rock fall hazards; advanced earth reinforcement technology matched the roadways with the canyon; rock reinforcement technology made it possible to have natural safe exposures of rock; landforms were strictly preserved and restored; blasted rock faces were stained to match natural exposures; comfort station buildings were earth-sheltered to blend them into the landscape and reduce energy consumption; and unique composting toilets require no water to operate.
After more than 22 years of planning, design and construction the $500 million project was described by a former adversary as “A prototype for future highways in environmentally sensitive terrain.” The interstate has not conquered the canyon! Instead, a super highway blended with the environment was created by the Federal Highway Administration, Colorado Department of Transportation, Colorado Transportation Commission, Glenwood Canyon Citizen’s Advisory Committee, 15 Construction Contractors, 14 Consulting Firms, 2 Design Consultants and a Program Management Consultant.
That’s an interesting trivia about this interstate, a lot of planning, compromising and adapting to the surrounding to build this highway. But the strange part of this plaque was in a corner by the restroom and vending machine. Its hardly visible unless you’re paying close attention around you which I was. Anyway, when I got out, Deelow and I exchanged and me and Corvo walked around the river banks of the canyon as I saw more information about the area.
From Vision to Reality
Glenwood Canyon has been a critical link in the nation’s ground transportation network ever since the completion of the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad in 1887. Later, Taylor State Road, a continuous wagon road between Denver and Grand Junction, opened to automobile traffic in 1902. Improvements to the highway occurred when it was renamed U.S. Highway 6 and 24 in 1936. When President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1960 signed the National Highway Bill authorizing the construction of Interstate 70, Glenwood Canyon was proposed as part of the transcontinental route. not until 1975, however, did the canyon officially become a link in the I-70 corridor. Then came the long planning, design, and construction phases – a process that took nearly twenty years. These panels tell that story.
A Promise Made
The process of planning and designing the new highway through Glenwood Canyon was lengthly intense – and public. Designers were especially challenged to create model graphics that would realistically depict the finished product. They did this by using artists’ renderings, sophisticated computer simulations and actual models. Designers walked every foot of the canyon many times and literally adjusted the location of the road by inches to save a tree or keep from blasting a cliff face. It was this personal commitment to excellence and attention to detail that ultimately gave the people what they wanted – the best that can be accomplished in highway design and construction.
Making it Fit
The unique terrain in Glenwood Canyon combined with the unusual environmental constraints facing the builders, required special construction techniques and equipment. While cranes and bulldozers are familiar sights to most people Glenwood Canyon became the venue for equipment rarely seen in highway construction. A bright red and white steel gantry made it possible to build the two longest bridges in the canyon without disturbing the ground below. Much of the special construction equipment employed in the canyon was adapted to accomplish tasks which it was not designed.
A Promise Kept
Highway planners envisioned a divided four lane highway through the canyon that would not conflict with the natural environment. Instead, the highway should complement the canyon’s magnificence.
From the information I gathered, they were indeed proud of the accomplishments they made by creating an interstate through Glenwood Canyon without destroying much of its natural surroundings. They were right though when we first entered the canyon I was already amazed by the giant, orange, rocks greeting us and the beautiful trees on it.
Even today, the area seems rugged and ferocious because the current river flow was strong, but maybe due to some rain the mountains. Deelow followed me and Corvo and she took several pictures and we enjoyed the sights of the canyon a little bit more before heading back to the road homebound.