OURAY – Beginning Friday, Jan. 31, Red Mountain Pass will be open to single-lane, alternating traffic two times a day – once from 6:30-8:30 a.m. and again and from 4:30-6:30 p.m. All traffic will use the southbound lane; the northbound (inside) lane will remain closed while a barrier and a temporary 24-foot-high rockfall fence is placed inside the highway centerline.
Currently, Colorado Department of Transportation and rockfall contractor Yenter Companies are setting 600 feet of concrete barrier on the highway to separate the work area from the open lane for traffic.
Following each morning and afternoon road opening period, the highway will be closed again at mile marker (MM) 87 at Ironton Park (about 17 miles north of Silverton) and MM 92, just south of Ouray. The closure is necessary while crews work in the narrow roadway to install the fence, which will be constructed out of the remaining 12’ by 72’ rockfall netting panels. The on-road fencing will serve as an additional temporary safeguard in this still slide-prone area until a more permanent solution can be implemented.
In addition to securing the rockfall netting panels, crews have also been working to scale or dislodge loose rocks below the nets, creating a more stable slope.
“It’s amazing the transformation of that slope,” said CDOT Maintenance Area Supervisor Vance Kelso. “It’s completely different than the first days of this slide.”
Crews were met with a dusting of snow on Tuesday morning, and a larger storm is forecast to move into the area later this week, which could halt rockfall mitigation work temporarily.
Once all the netting is placed and the storm has moved through, rockfall crews can better determine any necessary follow-up mitigation on the slope and adjacent to the roadway.
“I’m very proud of this team—for both their progress and their attention to safety,” said Greg Stacy, incident commander and CDOT deputy maintenance superintendent for the Durango section.
Meanwhile, as the highway closure drags on, Silverton business community has been feeling the effects, said Gina Rosato of the Silverton Chamber of Commerce. “Looking down the street, it’s quite visible how many people we are short. Hopefully everybody is hanging in there,” she said, adding that the town is still accessible from Durango to the south. “Getting the word out that we are not completely closed off has been important.”