Colorado Department of Transportation employees use a blasting cap to break up a large rock after a rockslide in Mount Harris Canyon on March 28.

Photo by John F. Russell

Colorado Department of Transportation employees use a blasting cap to break up a large rock after a rockslide in Mount Harris Canyon on March 28.

US 40 rock work between Hayden and Steamboat winds down

Traffic-stopping rockfall mitigation expected to end Wednesday

— The large-scale efforts began March 31, when Yenter Companies, of Arvada, began its contract work for the Colorado Department of Transportation. CDOT spokeswoman Nancy Shanks said Tuesday that the crew has worked for seven days and removed 300 to 400 cubic yards of material brought down from the canyon walls about seven miles east of Hayden.

The rock removal efforts were in response to frequent rockfall in recent weeks. Three significant rock slides sent two people to the hospital. The last major slide was March 28. The rock activity has presented dangers to drivers on U.S. 40, and mitigation efforts have created some inconveniences.

During the rock work, traffic has been stopped for 20 to 45 minutes at a time, Shanks said.

“The reason for these lengthy traffic stops is safety, of course,” she said. “At times, crews have had to reposition airbags several times in order to bring down a large, unstable rock. Then, once rocks are on the highway, crews must assess the hillside, clear rocks from the roadway and, if necessary, redirect travel around any resulting highway damage.”

Sometimes the traffic stops have been more than an inconvenience. On Monday, a woman in labor was headed east toward Steamboat Springs when she hit the stopped traffic.

“Work crews were able to use the loader, clear one lane and flag them through,” Shanks said.

So far, the rock scaling work has been contained to between mile markers 115 and 116. On the final day of work Wednesday, the crew will work between mile markers 113 and 114.

Since the freeze/thaw cycle began and rocks began to shift, CDOT crews have been doing routine rock scaling work in the Mount Harris area. When rock slides continued, CDOT contracted with Yenter at a cost of $24,800 to help. CDOT also has been eyeing a more long-term solution.

CDOT representatives have said they are optimistic the agency will be able to redirect some money to address problem areas in Mount Harris by the fall. The agency estimated that a netting and fencing project would cost $800,000 to $1 million.

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