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Update on US 550 Rock Slide: US 550 Red Mountain Pass Now Open

July 9, 2018 - Motorists to encounter one-lane alternating traffic

A CDOT crew sets up signage and portable traffic signals on the north side of US 550 Red Mountain Pass. Motorists are advised to drive with caution as they travel over this high county roadway. Drivers will encounter a one-lane, alternating traffic configuration controlled by the traffic signals about two miles south of Ouray.


SOUTHWEST COLORADO—CDOT has opened US Highway 550 Red Mountain Pass, just south of Ouray, after several rock slides and debris flows blocked the roadway Sunday, July 8. Motorists will encounter one-lane, alternating traffic controlled by portable traffic signals.

"Heavy rains in the high country yesterday resulted in flooding and debris flows blocking the highway," said John Palmer, CDOT deputy superintendent of maintenance. "To ensure the safety of the traveling public and our maintenance crews while they operated heavy equipment, the highway was closed through the night and today for clearing and damage assessment."

Maintenance crews cleared rock and mud from the highway at depths of four to 10 feet in some areas. Today, CDOT engineering and maintenance staff assessed any possible damage to the roadway and structures.

"Our team paid particular attention to a cribwall, which was in the path of one of the more significant rock slides," explained Kevin Curry, CDOT program engineer. "Cribwalls are essentially retaining structures, which stabilize the road surface. They are designed to support highways that have steep drop-offs."

Additionally, geotechnical staff from CDOT's Denver headquarters are en route to the Red Mountain Pass site. The geotechnical team will also assess any road and structure damage, as well as the stability of the cliffs and mountain sides immediately above the highway in the area.

"As our teams move forward assessing damage and planning for required repairs, we will be diligent in working with both San Juan and Ouray counties, and the communities along this busy corridor to establish a plan for how we will manage traffic through this operation," added CDOT's Southwest Colorado Regional Transportation Director Mike McVaugh.

Snowplow clears mud and debris from US 550

A CDOT snowplow truck is used to clear the highway of mud after a debris flow on US 550 Red Mountain Pass, which occurred after heavy rains on Sunday, July 8.

Clearing mud and debris from US 550

Heavy equipment is operated by CDOT maintenance personnel to clear the highway of mud after a debris flow on US 550 Red Mountain Pass, which occurred after heavy rains on Sunday, July 8.

Rock and mud on US 550

FACEBOOK PHOTO (Travis Guy): Rock and mud four to 10 feet deep covered some sections of US 550 Red Mountain Pass after heavy rains occurred on Sunday, July 8.

Damaged Cribwall US 550

FACEBOOK PHOTO (Casey Toole): A cribwall, that supports the highway, received damage from one of the more significant rock slides, which occurred after heavy rains along US 550 Red Mountain Pass on Sunday, July 8.

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