A Colorado State Patrol car sits behind a 15-foot-by-20-foot boulder that broke loose along U.S. Highway 40 between Hayden and Steamboat Springs on Monday morning. Two westbound vehicles were caught by the slide, and a passenger in a truck was transported to Yampa Valley Medical Center with non-life threatening injuries.

Photo by John F. Russell

A Colorado State Patrol car sits behind a 15-foot-by-20-foot boulder that broke loose along U.S. Highway 40 between Hayden and Steamboat Springs on Monday morning. Two westbound vehicles were caught by the slide, and a passenger in a truck was transported to Yampa Valley Medical Center with non-life threatening injuries.

Another rockslide near Mount Harris raises questions about US 40 safety

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— Colorado Department of Transportation officials say they’ll continue to work to make the Mount Harris stretch of U.S. Highway 40 between Steamboat Springs and Hayden safer for motorists, but there’s a lack of funding and no specific timetable for long-term improvements.

The third rockslide of the month occurred near mile marker 115 at about 8 a.m. Monday when a monstrous chunk of rock broke free from the canyon wall and fell to the highway. The largest section of rock was about 15 feet tall, 20 feet wide and 7 feet thick.

The rockslide closed U.S. 40 for more than two hours while CDOT crews worked to clear the debris. The highway eventually opened to one lane of alternating traffic, and it remained that way until 7:25 p.m. Monday when a crew stopped its work for the night, CDOT spokeswoman Nancy Shanks said. She said the crew would resume its work breaking up the remaining one-third of the rock today, and motorists should expect intermittent delays as the highway is again reduced to one lane of traffic.

A Steamboat man who was a passenger in one of two vehicles involved in Monday’s slide was taken to Yampa Valley Medical Center with moderate injuries. He was treated and released, according to officials. The drivers of a Dodge Ram pickup and a Subaru Legacy were not injured.

Shanks said the agency’s geologists are working on the Mount Harris site and others to make them safer. She said that work includes additional rock scaling — breaking off and removing rocks — to be performed later this week.

Crews already have been performing rock-scaling work in the area during the past couple of weeks.

More substantial work would depend on funding, Shanks said. She said CDOT’s rockfall program is allotted about $4 million per year — enough money for three or four projects. The Mount Harris stretch of U.S. 40 isn’t slated to be one of those projects this year or next year.

“We do hope to secure some funding for additional work, beyond the scaling,” Shanks said. “Those additional mitigation efforts could include some rockfall netting.”

She said other possible solutions, which she couldn’t provide a timetable for, could include fencing, barriers or bolting. Shanks said those decisions would be made by CDOT’s geologists, who recently have been working in the area.

Monday’s rockslide was the third this month in that section of U.S. 40 that connects Hayden and Steamboat Springs. U.S. 40 is the primary route for commuters traveling between Steamboat and Hayden, or farther west, Craig. The only viable alternate route is taking Routt County Road 33 (Twentymile Road) to C.R. 27 east of Hayden.

A Hayden woman was injured earlier this month when a rock about 3 inches thick, 6 inches wide and 10 inches long crashed through the windshield of a vehicle she was riding in near mile marker 116. A few days later, a boulder measuring about 5 feet by 8 feet fell from the side of a cliff, landed in the shoulder of the highway and broke into pieces. No one was hurt, but a truck hit and became stuck on part of the rock.

West Routt Fire Protection District Chief Bryan Rickman has responded to all three incidents.

“It’s that time of year — the old freeze-thaw — but this is the worst I can remember,” Rickman said. “I’ve been here 47 years and there’s always a few, but this is the worst. I can only remember three issues we’ve had out here before last year.”

Rickman said the site where Craig resident Karen Evanoff was killed in March 2010 by a falling rock is about a half-mile west of Monday’s slide.

Colorado State Patrol, Routt County Sheriff’s Office and Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue personnel also responded to Monday’s rockslide.

Brian Kofke, the driver of the Subaru, was following the Dodge Ram when he saw the side of the cliff start to slide. The 40-year-old Steamboat resident said the huge chunk of rock hit the ground less than two seconds later, sending several smaller boulders — including one 3- or 4-foot-tall rock that crashed into the passenger side of the Dodge — into the highway, blocking both lanes.

Kofke said Chad Hare, the driver of the pickup, braked and swerved to the left before making contact with the rock. Kofke steered his Subaru between the guardrail and the pickup. Kofke said he, Hare and Hare’s passenger, Frank Rose, crawled out of the driver’s side windows of the vehicles and moved out of the way before calling 911.

Rose, 37, of Steamboat, was taken to YVMC with abdominal and hip pain from where the rock hit the pickup, Rickman said.

Kofke, who was on his way to Colorado Northwestern Community College in Craig to take a test for the nursing degree he’s pursuing, said CDOT needs to fix the issues with rockslides in the Mount Harris area.

“I drive this road three to four times a week,” Kofke said. “And I’m vigilant about it, but it doesn’t matter how vigilant you are. It happens so quickly. We were lucky to have that second and a half. It saved our lives.”

To reach Jack Weinstein, call 970-871-4203 or email jweinstein@SteamboatToday.com

Comments

Colette Erickson 3 years, 4 months ago

What about the netting you see on some rock faces?

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wzdeer 3 years, 4 months ago

If you want a real good view at what happened, go to the craig daily press or click on this link.

www.craigdailypress.com/photos/2011/mar/28/37503/

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ybul 3 years, 4 months ago

Netting is not going to stop the two rocks I have seen on the road.

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freerider 3 years, 4 months ago

If you and your family gets wiped out by this guess what

CDOT = ZERO ACCOUNTIBILITY !!! hey not our problem

COLORADO STATE = IMMUNE FROM LAWSUITS !!!!

HWY PATROL = could care less [ unless one of them gets killed ]

Sheriff = has to do another damn report and clean up the mess and could care less

Local politicians = could care less unless it gets them votes

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HowardRoark 3 years, 4 months ago

Freerider is correct. I was in the Green subaru; my car sustained substantial damage and is likely not fixable and certainly not driveable. The trooper called it in as an "accident" to the tow company, which charged me 200.00 for the tow. Then I had to get a 40.00 taxi ride home. No one asked to give me a ride. No one told me how much the tow would cost. No one told me who to speak with about compensation. I stood on the road for 2 1/2 hours freezing before I got ripped off just trying to get home. I contacted CDOT risk managenment and opened an incident report which I was told would take 6 weeks to process, and that at the end of it all, I will likely get nothing from them. Nothing. CDOT has been yanking on rocks up there for weeks now, and likely were the CAUSE of this by loosening it. My car is gone, I have an old truck that gets 8 miles per gallon that will cost me way too much to drive to Craig for school, if it can even make it there and back without breaking down. This so called "accident" has a very high probability of causing me to drop out of nursing school, which is a shame because I was actually passing. Shame on CDOT, shame on the state; nothing but leeches that suck the life out of us all. Absolutely disgusting.

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Queenie 3 years, 4 months ago

Instead of spending sooooooooooo much money on all the "“Funded by The American Reinvestment and Recovery Act...Putting America Back to Work.” SIGNS they should have actually used that money for these kinds of project.

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kathy foos 3 years, 4 months ago

If its a tunnel that is needed and constructed,it should be called the Karen Evanoff in her memory.

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trump_suit 3 years, 4 months ago

Howard, sorry for your loss and I hope that you have adequate insurance. My insurance company would replace the vehicle and paid for the tow/cab ride. You do have insurance don't you? If not, take a good hard look in the mirror for the responsible party.

Just like the health insurance debate, people expect the nanny state to pay for their unexpected expenses when calamity strikes. If you have not made the proper decisions regarding the protecting (insurance) of your vehicle then expect to lose. Just like disease, accidents and mother nature are sometimes unavoidable and your best defense is a paid up insurance policy.

Do you people really want to net or blow up the most iconic cliff face in the valley. Look at any of the oldest pics that include Mount Harris and re-think this idea. It would be far cheaper to re-route Hwy 40 to the other side of the river or over the top.

The pictures? I would have politely told Mr. Policeman to pose so that I could include a picture of him when I filed my harrassment complaint. There is no law that prevents you from taking a picture of your own property. Mr. Patrolman was on a power trip.

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CONative 3 years, 4 months ago

I can't believe that CDOT had the money to put bump-outs on highway 40 going through downtown, but they can't find the money to resolve a problem that has a high likelihood of leading to another fatality. They need to re-prioritize funding immediately and manage the risk in that canyon.

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exduffer 3 years, 4 months ago

Lucky that someone did not get a ticket for following too closely.

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jake gray 3 years, 4 months ago

The tunnel is a great idea Kathy, its funny over 100 years ago they built snow and rock tunnels (sheds) over the railroad tracks leading to the moffat tunnel. The Swiss have been doing this for years and they look nice. To achieve this it didn't take tragedy or millions in studies it was just done in light of common sense. Today it has to be overstudied by a overpaid engineer who has no clue what he is doing then has to go through the cycle of C-DOT and maybe after millions spent studying and talking about it we will only alot $250,000.00 for a multi-million dollar project. Or in this case let the event continue to happen and the State faces a potential massive lawsuit (please erase those photos) and now we as tax payers get to pay the settlement and repairs. Trump why attack somebody when you cant prove what you say, he is a student and most likely has liability insurance. If he didn't it would have been stated in the artical or in his comment in some way, and to do it in anonymous way is petty. If you all want change speak up and stand behind it.

Howard I hope you didn't erase the photo's, very odd. Nothing against you but I'm really suprised the trooper didn't give you a ticket for following to close, they look at an accident as a way to generate income for the state. The tow company does the same they have less heart then the trooper. I owned a tow company and learned an honest man can not successfully own a tow company. Just remember its your choice on what tow company you want, do not let the trooper or officer tell you who to use. If you don't have a preference then they will call next on rotation. My advice research the companies in your area try to find the best one (good luck in your area). Try to finish your education with the rock issues going on, they are gonna need more medical people. Just wait folks, just wait till one of the airport people movers or a public official gets smashed in that canyon. Then we might fix the problem.

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HowardRoark 3 years, 4 months ago

trump_suit- Yes, I have insurance, but why insure a 95 subaru for full coverage when they will only give you blue-book value for your car? The "acts of God" clause always costs qite a bit more. Your comment infers that I am the responsible party for not having the proper insurance, and that I expect the "nanny state" to take care of me. This is a very poor assumption, and frankly, it is insulting. Let me make this clear: I was not responsible for the rocks falling and crushing my car, and Karen Evanoff that was killed in the same area by a falling boulder this time last year was not responsible for that either; yet her family recieved no compensation from CDOT. The insurance I have is the required insurance by the law of this state, so if I am following the law, why is my insurance wrong in your eyes? I pay $66.00 a year to renew my cars registration, and that money supposedly goes to the CDOT whom is supposed to use it to maintain the roads integrity and safety for us all, so as far as I am concerned, they are not using the money I have paid them in a propper manor when people die and are continually injured. How many lives are worth the preservation of what you call "the most iconic cliff face in the valley"? One? Two? Five? What if it was your mother that was killed or injured? What if it was your son's car that only had the state required insurance because that is all he can afford? I don't think that you would think the cliff face "Iconic" if someone you loved were killed there. I think you would likely cry every time you passed by it, and wonder why the hell they haven't done anything at all to protect motorists in the future. Your perception of this incident is egoccentric and callouse, sir, and I would encourage you to have a bit more of an open mind. As far as the officer; I know my constiutional rights; I sent all of the pictures to my wife, and complied with his request to delete the pictures from my phone after I sent them off. I did not feel like a constitutional dispute after surviving this. One more thing; if you think I expect the "Nanny state" to take care of me, and that I am that kind of person, then I would have just sat in my car and complained of neck and back pain and sued them that way; but I did not do that, and I will never do that. I will not lie for money, which is probably why I do not have much of it. All I want is to have what I had before this happened; my car fixed, my tow bill covered, and my taxi bill taken care of. I want not one cent more. I feel I am entitled to this since I pay taxes, and CDOT did not do the job they were supposed to do with the money I gave them. If you feel differently, then all I have to say is that I respectfully disagree with what you say, but I would die to defend your right to say it. Good day to you, Sir.

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trump_suit 3 years, 4 months ago

Not attacking anyone here. I am sorry for your loss. I am sorry that this happened to you and that your financial situation is such that you are unable to absorb this loss. My comments are more about the general nature of your complaint that you expect CDOT to pay for your loss.

I would like CDOT to pay the damages to my truck when that dingbat lady ran into it also, she clearly could have stopped but chose to honk her horn instead. If CDOT had kept the road from being so slippery it would never have happened Unfortunately, my insurance company had to pick up that tab.

Is it the responsibility of the Gov't to protect you from your own decisions?

How much of a tax increase would it take to cover every single vehicle on the road where the driver cannot afford the cost of replacement insurance?

I think that it is a difficult stretch to try and blame CDOT for the normal freeze/thaw cycle of mother nature. Look at the size of that rockfall, nothing that CDOT has done could even begin to move a rock of that size. Go ahead and get out your big prybar and give it a shot. That is why it is defined as an "act of god". Sooner or later, mountains turn into hills, and hills turn into valleys. I believe that this basic law of erosion includes the Mount Harris cliff face. Drive there at your own risk.

If this cliff face is such a menace then by all means find a way to make it safer for all of us. The old timers that built the railroad and subsequent highway did not have the capability of moving this cliff and so we have driven this route for over 100 years. How many passes thru that canyon have resulted in death/injury compared to the number of safe transits?

My cousin was hit by a rock fall in Utah that totalled his vehicle should we make this a nationwide effort. A friends truck was totalled in a hailstorm in North Dakota can we blame that one on the Gov't also? Bottom line is that there are risks associated with moving vehicles that you accept each and every time you get behind the wheel and the responsible party is you.

If the danger is such that it is time to spend money on public safety then "Get R Done". However, let us be sure that the money spent is spent on a workable solution and not a band aid that will allow these incidents to continue.

Tunnel it or move the Highway, but netting that cliff face would be an expensive mistake and simply blowing it up is just not realistic.

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CONative 3 years, 4 months ago

trump_suit: I think it's important to remember that CDOT has been working in that canyon for the past couple of weeks clearing rocks. The reason they've been working there is because it's their responsibility to keep the highway safe. What if something they did caused this huge boulder to fall? I'm with HowardRoark - we pay vehicle taxes that are, in part, supposed to go towards maintaining the safety of the roads we travel.

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trump_suit 3 years, 4 months ago

CONative, so you are saying that if CDOT had ignored the problem completely they would be less liable? Did you see the pictures of those workers scaling the cliff sides?

Nothing that a human being did on that cliff caused a semi-truck sized rock to fall. Look at the sheer volume of material that came down. That would take explosives, not men with prybars and ropes. CDOT did not cause this accident, that rock face has been unstable for generations. Given enough time, the entire cliff will fall into the Yampa River. What happened yesterday is just another small step in that direction.

CDOT was trying to prevent basketball sized rocks from falling. Nothing that they have ever done has ever even begun to come close to the scope of what happened yesterday. It would take heavy equipment and serious explosives to even come close.

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freerider 3 years, 4 months ago

Trump

A few years back on Berthod pass CDOT caused a massive boulder the size of a house to come tumbling down while working and it took out a bus full of tourist's from Germany...several people were killed and the medical bills went over 2 million for the survivors

CDOT was directly responsible for killing and injuring those tourists...period they admitted they screwed up

They also walked away from any responsibility for their actions and so did the State They are IMMIUNE to any sort of legal action...

I don't think they are malicious , but I do think we have what amounts to Homer Simpson in charge of the nuke plant .

CDOT did not handle this properly ...that section of road has killed and it should have been fixed years ago and it should have been shut down or closed or blasted

If a snowplow hits or kills you = IMMUNE IF CDOT kills you = IMMUNE

So I guess you were on that cliff and you're a engineer and by your own statement the cliff is heading into the river and you don't see a problem here ??

Men with prybars on the cliff... that's like moving a pile of sand with a pair of tweezers doh !!

Well maybe next time it will be you or your family that gets killed ,,,,oh well rock happens

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Fred Duckels 3 years, 4 months ago

Berthoud Pass was caused by a CDOT employee pushing a rock off from the road above. Romer wanted to compensate but the law only allowed $500,000 in the aggregate. He tried to supplement it with private funds but I never heard the results.

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freerider 3 years, 4 months ago

Howard

man I really feel for ya..you almost die and you get left standing out in the cold by the state patrol ...to protect and serve is a joke more like to harass and arrest

It's too bad that boulder didn't take out Hickenlooper or a Sheriff or a State patrol

or the head of CDOT ....maybe we would get it fixed

Or what if it would had killed a bus load of tourist's from the Hayden airport and made national news ....ooohhh bad news !!!

I freaking cringe every time I drive by there and see my life flash in front of me

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chickadee 3 years, 4 months ago

Interesting that anyone going by the name of a protagonist in an Ayn Rand book would have even the slightest expectation of the government taking care of his problems.

What would Howard Roark do? Probably not stand shivering on a road side waiting for anyone to help him.

Objectivism is hip until the objectivist gets crushed by a falling boulder and/or needs a ride home. Just sayin'.

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Krista Monger 3 years, 4 months ago

I think it's screwy when CDOT will find money to replace elk river bridge on 40 even though...

"The 53-year-old bridge is structurally sound, Colorado Department of Transportation spokeswoman Nancy Shanks said. But it has been deemed functionally obsolete because it has no shoulder on one lane and a shoulder of only 2 to 3 feet on the other lane."

but can't find money to fix Mt. Harris Canyon even though it has sent more people to the hospital than the bridge and potentially more to the morgue. I know... there is a bridge budget and a rockfall budget, and the money can't transfer. but come on... let's prioritize.

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sashas 3 years, 4 months ago

Chckadee- This wasn't about the objectivism, or Ayn Rand novels. Seriously, you are really drawing at straws here, and using a tragedy to make a very weak point. This is about a road that people have died on because those who are paid to maintain it and keep it safe by the public are clearly failing at their task. You are a petty, shriveled up, angry soul to use something like this to get your political views across. You must be in politics. I don't want the government to take care of my problems you jackass, I want the government to do the job I pay them to do. I want them to have accountability when someone is killed or property lost due to their ineptness, and if you don't think that Howard Roark would do the same, then you clearly have missed the boat concerning Mrs. Rand's works.

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Brian Kotowski 3 years, 3 months ago

Seems to me that blasting the canyon wall further back will eventually become inevitable as the Routt population & resulting traffic load increases. Whenever that section of 40 was originally carved out, it would appear (to a layman like me) that they cut it about as close as possible. I'm sure economic constraints figured prominently in their planning & construction at the time.

Whatever the solution, it's gonna be way expensive. Chain link netting won't get it done.

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