I-70 Glenwood Canyon History

Length: 12 miles

Cost: $490 million

Construction Began: 1980

Construction Completed: 1992

A road had existed through spectacular Glenwood Canyon , with its cliffs towering a maximum of 2,000 feet above the Colorado River , from pioneer times. Photos of teams and wagons negotiating a rough trail through the canyon date from the 1880s.

The Taylor State Road was completed between Denver and Grand Junction in 1902. It was the first improved vehicle road through Glenwood Canyon .

The final link of I-70 through Glenwood Canyon has been hailed as an engineering marvel because of the care taken to incorporate the interstate improvements into the fragile canyon environment while leaving as much of the flora and fauna intact as possible.

As many as 500 highway workers were employed in the canyon each day. The public driving through the area marveled at the new retaining walls, 40 viaducts and bridges, some of which were construction using unique and spectacular slip-form gantry imported from France . At traffic sometimes that sometimes approached 30 minutes or more, drivers had a chance to get out of their vehicles and watch first-hand at the construction activities going on around them.

Construction of three tunnels, 15 miles of retaining walls, and numerous other structures, comprised a challenging but very rewarding project. The Glenwood Canyon project required 30 million points of structural steel, 30 million pounds of reinforcing steel, and 400,000 cubic yards of concrete weighing 1.62 billion pounds.

The result of the Glenwood Canyon I-70 Final Link is much more than just a transportation facility. State-of-the-art rest areas at No Name, Grizzly Creek, Hanging Lake , and Bair Ranch provide opportunities for rest, education about the canyon and the project, and direct access to recreational pursuits such as river rafting and bicycling/jogging/walking along the canyon's recreation path.

Between No Name and Glenwood Springs (3 miles) Construction Began: 1964 Construction Completed: 1966

Between Glenwood Springs and Chacra (7 miles) Construction Completed: 1971

Between Chacra and New Castle (4 miles) Construction Completed: 1971 Cost: approximately $4 million


  • Northwestern Engineering Company
  • Corn Construction Company

Resident Engineer: Glen W. Jones

Between New Castle and Silt (8 miles) Construction Completed: 1973

Between Silt and west Rifle (11 miles) Construction Completed: 1976

Between west Rifle and Rulison (6 miles) Construction Completed: 1980

Between Rulison and Parachute (6 miles) Construction Completed: 1983

Between Parachute and De Beque (13 miles) Construction Completed: 1984

Between De Beque and Junction State Highway 65 – De Beque Canyon (13 miles) Construction Began: 1985 Construction Completed: 1989

POINT OF INTEREST> Within De Beque Canyon, the Beavertail Tunnels go through Beavertail Mountain . The tunnels are unique for two reasons. One, they are designed with curved sidewalls, a design incorporated into several European tunnels. Curving the sidewalls creates a superior structural section and makes the tunnels appearance more pleasing. The Beavertail Tunnels are the only ones in the country incorporating curved sidewalls. Two, there were no explosives used during excavation. A very large rotating cutter mounted on a crawler tractor chiseled the sandstone and shale bedrock to the next lines of the tunnel section.*

*From the book Building I-70 by Dick Prosence, former CDOH District Engineer

Between Junction State Highway 65 and Clifton (12 miles) Construction Began: 1960 Construction Completed: 1963

POINT OF INTEREST> This segment was the first I-70 construction project west of the Continental Divide in Colorado . Work consisted of the bridge over the Colorado River , east of Palisade. When it opened in 1963, it also was the first operational section in use west of the Divide.

Between Clifton and Horizon Drive - north Grand Junction (6 miles) Construction Completed: 1965

Between Horizon Drive and 22 Road (5 miles) Construction Began: 1965 Construction Completed: 1967

Between 22 Road and Fruita (6 miles) Construction Began: 1967 or 1968 Construction Completed: 1969

Between Fruita and Mack (8 miles) Construction Completed: 1972

Between Mack and Utah State Line (11 miles) Construction Completed: 1973