A huge rock fall on Sunday, May 5, has fully closed State Highway 133 on McClure Pass by the Paonia Reservoir. Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) crews are working to clear and re-open at least one lane of traffic, possibly by some time on Friday.
CDOT closed the highway at 9:30 a.m. on Sunday about 13 miles south of the McClure Pass summit after seven or eight large rocks came down onto the highway and into the ditch.
CDOT rockfall specialists and experts from Yenter Companies discovered debris with a cumulative measurement of 120-feet long by 50-feet wide by 20-feet tall. CDOT's report states the "biggest rocks measured about the size of a dump truck, 30-feet by 15-feet by 10-feet, and another was about 20-feet by 20-feet by 10-feet." One of the rocks has caused a two-foot deep by 12-foot long by 10-foot wide depression in the roadway.
"The rain and weather derailed their progress a little bit," Nancy Shanks, CDOT Public Relations, said on Tuesday, May 7.
"We're expecting rain off and on all week in the high country. That set them back probably half a day. That means they will be scaling today (Tuesday). Likely scaling at least a half a day tomorrow (Wednesday)," she said.
CDOT rockfall contractor Yenter Companies will do the rock scaling. Scaling involves climbing the hillside, anchored by safety ropes and prying some of the rocks loose with pry bars. Crews may also use air bags inserted behind loose rock and inflated until the rock breaks free.
Once the hillside is stable, crews will blast rock on the roadway and haul it away. "If all goes well with the weather, they could start drilling to set their blasting apparatus tomorrow afternoon (Wednesday). Again this is all best case scenario. That means blasting on Thursday and hauling on Friday. I know there are going to be at least a hundred dump truck loads of material to haul away ... once they get it broken up on the road. That is not including what they are continuing to bring down today. Fortunately, the site where they will be storing the rock is not far away," Shanks said.
Shanks doesn't expect the highway will be open before Friday. When things are determined safe, they will make every effort to clear as much rock as possible to have at least single-lane traffic through the area.
The closure barricades are at mile post 28 on the south side and mile post 29.5 on the north. Motorists from the south attempting to get from Paonia to Carbondale, Glenwood or Aspen will need to detour onto Highway 92, Highway 65, Interstate 70 and Highway 82. That detour covers about 140 miles. Travelers from north can still get to Marble and points south, CDOT advises.
"This is such a hardship. It's such a long detour depending on where you need to go," Shanks said. "We on the Western Slope do not have enough alternate routes."
Log on to www.cotrip.org to check the travel alerts concerning travel over McClure Pass or call 511 for the latest road and weather conditions.blog comments powered by Disqus