Steamboat Springs City officials have closed a stretch of River Road between the Brooklyn and Tree Haus neighborhoods at least until Friday after two boulders described as being half the size of a car slid onto the narrow road at about 8 p.m. Tuesday.
“We’re fortunate it didn’t result in any injuries,” Public Works Engineer Ben Beall said Wednesday afternoon. “The road is going to be closed for a number of days. The earliest it might open would be Friday.”
Assistant City Street Superintendent Ron Berig said Steamboat Springs police alerted dispatchers of the rock slide Tuesday night and dispatchers alerted the street department. The road was closed shortly after.
Beall said it was apparent that the shale-like boulders had been sitting on soils saturated by moisture that had begun to slump toward the road. The site of the slide, in the canyon south of Brooklyn, is not in the same place where a mudslide occurred on a slope below a home in Tree Haus in September 2007. River Road was closed off and on for a week after that event while crews cleaned up the mud.
The concern that more boulders might come down prompted city crews to call in a track hoe from Duckels Construction at mid-morning Wednesday to pull down an even larger boulder, one that nearly matched the size of the track hoe, Beall said.
The two boulders that fell into the road were moved to the opposite side of the road, but Beall expected that a hydraulic breaker bar would be needed to break up the largest rock before it could be moved.
“We determined that there is no need to use dynamite because of the type of rock it is,” Beall said.
A still larger boulder that appears to have already moved a short distance down the slope was still poised above the road on Wednesday.
Berig confirmed that three private driveways are within the road closure and all three are at the south end, close to the intersection of Mount Werner and River roads. The residents will not have any difficulty accessing their property, he said.
Beall said he was pursuing a meeting with a geotechnical engineer to assess the potential for more rock slides and how best to stabilize the situation in the short term.
The National Weather Service in Grand Junction is forecasting a 60 percent chance of rain showers today, increasing to a 70 percent chance of rain mixed with snow overnight into Friday. Less than an inch of snow is expected overnight.
— To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com