Steamboat Springs Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect that rockfall reports were made in 2011.
The Colorado Department of Transportation plans to next month start a four-month-long rockfall prevention project in Mount Harris Canyon. Officials hope the work will allow motorists to travel more safely along a section of U.S. Highway 40 that runs between Steamboat Springs and Hayden.
Rockfalls in the section of the highway that runs through the canyon killed one person and caused several accidents in the past two years. CDOT received four reports of rocks falling in the canyon in 2011.
CDOT spokeswoman Ashley Mohr said Monday that workers are expected to start the nearly $1 million project March 19 by scaling the high cliffs between mile markers 113 and 120 to bring down any loose rocks. Workers then will begin installing vinyl-coated chain-link fencing to some of the cliff faces along the stretch of highway to contain falling rocks and prevent them from crashing down onto the road. The project also will strategically add sections of fencing above the cliffs to catch falling rocks and boulders that may tumble down slopes CDOT engineers have determined to be potentially dangerous.
“We haven’t had any recent incidents (in the canyon), but we want to make sure everyone is as safe as possible,” Mohr said. “We know we’ve had problems in the area in the past, and we want to be proactive this spring.”
Mohr said CDOT is funding half of the project and the rest is being paid for by dollars from Funding Advancement for Surface Transportation and Economic Recovery legislation, known as FASTER. FASTER dollars are collected from increased state vehicle registration fees. Workers also are expected to resurface a portion of the highway near the canyon during the span of the rockfall project that is expected to be finished by August.
Mohr said CDOT hopes to limit any traffic delays on the busy commuter route to a maximum of 20 minutes during the construction hours that will run between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Speed limits in the canyon also will be reduced during the project.
Mohr said CDOT soon will launch www.coloradodot.info/projects/MtHarrisCanyon/ and post updates about the project there.
To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com