While publishing the homeschooling series (starting here), some other things have come up.
Most notably, the rapid collapse of Colorado. As I write this, Interstate Highway 70 has been closed through Glenwood Canyon for THIRTEEN days (29 July through 10 August).
Glenwood Canyon is one of the most spectacular and boldest stretches of Interstate Highway in the Fifty States – rivaled only by Eisenhower Tunnel also in Colorado and the Virgin Gorge in Utah). It is also one of the most nightmarish highway stretches in the States, not just for drivers but for maintenance and repair crews of the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT). This 12-mile section of roadway features the No Name Tunnel, Hanging Lake Tunnel, Reverse Curve Tunnel, 2 more tunnels, 40 bridges and viaducts, and 40 miles of retaining walls. It is very beautiful, fun to drive (in good weather: hideous in bad). (I have probably driven that stretch more than 500 times since it was completed in 1992.)
Not to recap news, but mudslides from denuded slopes above Grizzly Creek (from last year’s wildfires) have covered and damaged the freeway and dumped massive amounts of mud, rock, logs and junk on it and into the Colorado River. CDOT cannot even see how much actual damage was done until tens of thousands of tons of material is moved off and hauled away. It may be months before even one two-lane roadway can be reopened, and there will be many more closures (shorter, hopefully) during repair and reconstruction.
Colorado’s governor (another Pandemic Emperor, by the way) has begged for 114 million bucks from the FedGov in emergency aid for the cleanup, repair, and improvements to reduce future risks. That money is in addition to probably$20-30 million that the State itself will have to spend.
This is far from the first time that stretch of highway has been closed. I personally was caught for about four hours one day because a semi jackknifed at the east end of the canyon blocking most of both roadways, a few years back. That was a shorter closure than most.
Yes, there IS a detour. One which adds more than 100 miles and (with normal traffic) about two hours driving time to the usual 3-4 hours going between Metro Denver and Grand Junction (a few miles from Utah). With virtually ALL of I-70’s usual traffic having to use that detour, traffic will be much slower – probably at least three and possibly four hours more driving, mostly on two-lane roads in mountains. CDOT urges truck traffic “crossing Colorado” to use I-80 in Wyoming, instead, adding 300 miles to Denver-Grand Junction and 400 miles to a Denver-Las Vegas or Los Angeles trip.
But the biggest impact is on Colorado itself – and much of this can be laid at the feet of the State and local governments themselves. More than just a lack of planning for emergency conditions and disasters, but the decisions made on what can and cannot be done.
Colorado is divided in two by the Great or Continental Divide and the ranges of mountains reaching up over 14,000 feet above sea level, as compared to Mile-High Denver (5280 feet above sea level). There are really only 3-1/2 high-traffic routes over the mountains between the Western Slope and the Front Range Urban monstrosity (and the Eastern Plains). In the far south is US 160. In the middle is US 50 from Pueblo to Grand Junction: both are mostly 2-lane, crossing multiple high passes, and wandering back and forth. I-70 is the middle-north passage, and the “Half” is US 40, which divides from I-70 about 50 miles west of Denver and goes north and west to come out at Utah’s desolate northeast corner (with various ways to get back down to I-70 once through the worst of the mountain passes.) That is it!
(Both North and South Dakota have more bridges and major highways over the mighty Missouri between the East and West River portions of their States than Colorado has over the peaks and passes of the Rockies.)
Alternatives? Go north to Cheyenne and across on I-80, or south nearly to Albuquerque (just short of I-40) to find secondary highways letting you go between east and west in Colorado (and even then, you have mountain passes in both Wyoming and New Mexico to cross). It is no wonder Colorado is so fractured politically and socially and economically.
Worse, there is only ONE railroad running east-to-west in Colorado – right through Glenwood Canyon. (Though it was not damaged by this mudslide and operations resumed after less than a week.)
For the half-million people in Grand Junction and the counties around it, this is a major problem. Most of their fuel, food, parts, and even beverages come from Denver and vicinity. Prices of fuel are already up to $4/gallon and may soon rival California’s prices. The major market for the Western Slope’s fruit and vegetable crops is the Front Range: corn, peaches, apples, and more – you can’t make it ALL into potables! Tourists also mainly come from the east – and so another industry is hard hit. The Western Slope’s economy has already been hit hard by Denver’s and DC’s (Biden’s) policies: oil and gas are hurting, timber is virtually dead, the major part of ag (ranching and bean farming) is dying, and the area is being flooded with refugees from California and Nevada, seeking freedom from the Pandemic Panic and Lockdown (and jobs, once their money from selling their million-buck house back west is gone).
Successive regimes in Denver – Colorado is now solidly blue and not purple – have worked to prevent any economic development in the Western Slope outside tourism, and with the decline of oil and gas (not refined there, but in Denver, Salt Lake, and Albuquerque), there is little to fall back on.
But in part two (after the rest of the homeschooling) I’ll explain why it is government to blame and why this may be the final straw for Colorado.