A sign warns drivers entering a canyon east of Hayden to watch for falling rocks. A rockslide in the canyon closed U.S. Highway 40 for two hours Monday, and the Colorado Department of Transportation crews, which can be seen in the background, were still working Tuesday to remove a large boulder that limited traffic to one lane.

Photo by John F. Russell

A sign warns drivers entering a canyon east of Hayden to watch for falling rocks. A rockslide in the canyon closed U.S. Highway 40 for two hours Monday, and the Colorado Department of Transportation crews, which can be seen in the background, were still working Tuesday to remove a large boulder that limited traffic to one lane.

CDOT plans more rock work along US 40 near Hayden

Agency hopes to get funding for netting, fencing

Advertisement

photo

A sign warns drivers entering a canyon east of Hayden to watch for falling rocks. A rockslide in the canyon closed U.S. Highway 40 for two hours Monday.

— Colorado Department of Transportation officials are moving forward with plans to make the Mount Harris area of U.S. Highway 40 between Steamboat Springs and Hayden safer for drivers.

A day after the third rockslide in the area this month, the agency announced Tuesday that it had contracted with Yenter Companies, of Arvada, to continue rock scaling started by CDOT crews in recent weeks. And CDOT Region 3 Director Dave Eller said he thinks the agency can get funding for a preliminary netting and fencing project for Mount Harris.

“The likelihood for it getting some money for preventative maintenance issues is high,” he said. “How much money, I’m not sure right now. We’re still working through those issues.”

The need for more mitigation efforts in the Mount Harris area became more apparent Monday after the third rockslide in as many weeks and the second that caused injury. A massive slab broke off the canyon wall, sending boulders and rocks into the highway.

A car and a truck were damaged in the slide, which happened at about 8 a.m. at mile marker 115. A passenger in the truck was taken to Yampa Valley Medical Center with moderate injuries and was treated and released. Neither driver was injured.

A rockslide March 11 sent a woman to the hospital with minor injuries, and one March 17 damaged a car, but didn’t injure the driver. Craig resident Karen Evanoff was killed in March 2010 by a falling rock in the same area.

Routt County Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush, chairwoman of the Northwest Transportation Planning Region, has been working with Eller to resolve the rockslide issues in the Mount Harris area.

“It’s clearly a safety issue,” she said. “We’ve already had a fatality and other personal injury accidents. We hope to prevent that. … This is a major commuter route.”

Eller said because $4 million from the state’s rockfall mitigation program was dedicated to other projects this year, he hoped to secure funds for a Mount Harris project through Funding Advancement for Sur­face Transportation and Eco­nomic Recovery legislation, known as FASTER.

He said that FASTER funds won’t be available until the state’s fiscal year begins July 1 but that design work already has begun.

Eller said the project, which would address some of Mount Harris’ more problematic areas, would cost $800,000 to $1 million. If funding is secured through reallocation of money intended for other projects and project savings, the netting and fencing project could take place in fall.

State Rep. Randy Baumgardner, a Hot Sulphur Springs Republican who represents the district including Routt County, said he was trying to schedule a meeting with CDOT Director Don Hunt in an effort to have funds shifted to the Mount Harris project.

“I’m going to do everything I can to make that happen,” he said.

Mark Eike, a regional deputy superintendent for CDOT, said a crew on Tuesday finished breaking apart and removed from the highway the slab that broke off the canyon wall Monday. Eike said U.S. 40 was expected to be opened back up to two lanes Tuesday night.

Eller said Yenter Companies, a rock-scaling specialist, will use different equipment and resources to break off and remove loose rock that CDOT crews couldn’t reach because of ice and snow. The project cost is $24,800.

He said CDOT also is patrolling the Mount Harris area around the clock to quickly clear any fallen rock. Besides that patrolling, rock scaling, and the anticipated netting and fencing project, CDOT doesn’t have longer-term plans for the area, such as building a tunnel or walls.

“Before we get into any serious, expensive, environmental right-of-way constraint projects, our first attempt will be rockfall scaling, which is pretty effective,” Eller said. “That will be our first step.”

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

Comments

Fred Duckels 3 years, 8 months ago

We pay higher registration fees to the FASTER fund to be used for matters like this but we find the money being siphoned off for hybrid busses and other PC projects. Emergencys like this should have first priority.

0

trump_suit 3 years, 8 months ago

Fred,

What kind of roof/tunnel/shelter would it take to protect the roadway from the kind of rockfall that happened this week? It seems to me that a major chunk of the cliff fell away that would have punched thru most types of construction.

Isn't there a major differnence between a basketball type rock and what happened this week? Is there really an answer here?

Yes, I really am asking for your professional opinion. :)

0

mtroach 3 years, 8 months ago

Fred, you only pay Faster fees if you are late registering, and our esteemed state rep is busy triing to undo those fees. Give Randy a call and tell him instead of removing Faster fees, to get that money working to fix roads. Starting with this one.

0

Scott Wedel 3 years, 8 months ago

Obvious issue with a shelter is that puts the road in the shade so then icing becomes a constant battle.

The shelters along mountainous European roads which are often quite narrow and typically continue the natural slope of the mountain so there is little impact upon the shelter when there is a slide. This would be different because it is a cliff face and the shelter would have to be designed for impacts. And shelters are quite expensive.

This is hardly the worst stretch for rock slides in the state or the most dangerous stretch of highway.

0

Jeff_Kibler 3 years, 8 months ago

mtroach, late registration fees are just a part of FASTER, not the whole thing.

"When FASTER went into effect last July, it required a mandatory late fee of $25 per month of non-compliance—up to $100. The new penalties came atop FASTER’s hike in the cost of registering a vehicle in Colorado, averaging around $40 more for a passenger car."

http://www.coloradonewsagency.com/2010/01/19/following-late-fee-flap-push-is-on-to-fix-faster/

Road Safety Surcharge Bridge Safety Surcharge

http://www.colorado.gov/cs/Satellite/Revenue-MV/RMV/1243943882310

0

Brian Kotowski 3 years, 8 months ago

I've never really looked to see how close the railroad is on that stretch. It would seem that a sloping shelter might run the risk of sloughing the debris onto the tracks below.

0

Jeff_Kibler 3 years, 8 months ago

Aren't there shelters on US 550? The snow/avalanche shelters on I-90 east of Seattle still don't eliminate all road closures. Scott's right, this would be a rock/boulder shelter, and how long would it have to be? The shelters I've seen are only a few hundred yards long. I don't see any inexpensive solutions.

0

jake gray 3 years, 8 months ago

Most of you have been through the Glenwood Canyon. Did you notice the style of bridge making they did? One lane above the other well the same concept could be done here. Expensive yes but better then the shelter idea I first suggested yesterday. This bridge concept could be over the railroad tracks below, and abandon the exsisting roadway (making a greenbelt for future rockfall to come to a nice non-destructive rest). Put up a Jersey barrier on the edge of the road and this leaves about a 30 foot safety zone.

0

jake gray 3 years, 8 months ago

Oh put the bike path through the green belt. Then we could use lottery funds because we are helping the bikers or outdorsey people. Sounds good should run about 30 million.

0

Fred Duckels 3 years, 8 months ago

The idea of a shed would only deposit the rocks onto the RR tracks and is probably not in the realm of affordability. This is very complicated and geotechnical engineers will be required to design the most cost effective ideas. A combination of rock bolting and netting comes to mind and I suspect that this area will be receiving it's share of attention in the future. The recent problems make this section radioactive and politically too hot to ignore.

0

jake gray 3 years, 8 months ago

A jersey barrier is a 3 foot tall concrete barrier used in construction zones and on interstates as a median barrier. In Steamboat they used them by the West end of Town to stop the shell rock from sliding onto the roadway.

0

Brian Kotowski 3 years, 8 months ago

yvb:

I must misunderstand what you're proposing. That stretch of 40 is part of my daily commute. I drove it an hour ago, and the tracks are directly below. If the shelter is sloped to slough the rockfall off the roadway, where does the debris wind up, if not on the railroad directly below?

0

sledneck 3 years, 8 months ago

Why do so many people believe it possible to prevent or eliminate lifes risks? And if it were possible what a horrible world it would be.

How many people are killed each year BUILDING tunnels, bridges, concrete barriers, DOING highway work, SCALING cliffs, performing MAINTAINENCE on tunnels, etc?

We have become a scared,reactionary, blameful people. Always looking fearfully for the next "crisis" about which we can wring our hands. Ever ready to propose a "solution". Expecting the state to construct "guard rails" around each of lifes pitfalls so we can individually avoid our rightful share of them. Seldom weighing alternative uses of scarce resources.

And yes Fred, the politicians will work this just like they needlessly reduced the speed limit after Lornas untimely and tragic death. (which had little to do with too high a speed limit)They want to show us they "care" even though they most often display their "compassion and understanding" by relieving us of money, property, freedoms. And seldom accomplishing the protection promised and often replacing one bad situation with another, or several.

0

mavis 3 years, 8 months ago

Let me get this straight.... WE CAN"T afford to do Rock slide mitigation to keep the roads safe..... We CAN"T AFFORD to repair severely damaged roads We CAN"T AFFORD underground power lines while we do septic lines But it is a GOOD IDEA to start funding natural gas to have lines that we are going to maintain with the same philosiphy????? Problem is.... when NATURAL GAS lines are maintained the same way we maintain ALL of these other "things" they will EXPLODE and KILL a lot more people.
Wake up people.

0

sledneck 3 years, 8 months ago

The problem is that the state can't afford to maintain ANY of the infrastructure it has but it still wants to build more. And it NEEDS more; or at least the American people do. We NEED natural gas and oil pipelines. We need new roads and bridges. We need reserves for when OUR tsunami hits (and it will) We need these things but we can't afford them because we have pissed away our money on frivilous, unnecessary expenses that are in no way the domain of the state. (Emerald mt, iron horse, etc, etc)

I used this analogy before: The state (fed, state, local take your pick) is like a man who can't afford to mow his grass or paint his house or replace his worn out carpet or even pay the electric bill but, instead of planning ways to cut back, he has a set of plans rolled out on the dining room table for the addition he intends to build... INSANITY.

0

Jeff_Kibler 3 years, 8 months ago

We can't prevent or eliminate life's risks so why bother trying? Cars, airplanes and ski bindings are a lot safer than they were 40 years ago. We can't mitigate everything, but this stretch of highway is a daily necessity for many people. Or how about a permanent "Twenty Mile" detour?

0

Brian Kotowski 3 years, 8 months ago

yvb:

I still don't see it. The pic accompanying this article is a good illustration. The shelter you propose won't need to "extend to the tracks" in order to affect it. The rail parallels the highway, about 50 feet below. Unless I'm missing something, your shelter will protect the road by diverting the rockfall down the cliff face, which ends at the rail line at the bottom. The slab they had to blast apart must have weighed multiple tons. Netting would be an ineffectual stopgap to protect the tracks.

0

sledneck 3 years, 8 months ago

Cars, airplanes and ski bindings are produced by the private sector. That is why they get better and better. Mail, Amtrack and schools are from the state and they are worse than they were 40 years ago. (much worse in the case of schools)

If the people of Routt County or Colorado want increased rock mitigation work thats fine, even understandable. I don't necessarily disagree. I would simply ask them what current expense are they willing to eliminate to get it?

0

Requires free registration

Posting comments requires a free account and verification.