News

Southwest Colorado Travel Update: US 550 Red Mountain Pass: OPEN

March 22, 2019 -

CDOT reminds travelers that winter road conditions could still be encountered throughout the spring months  

CDOT PHOTO: The first vehicle drives through the gate on US 550 North Red Mountain Pass which is now open to the traveling public. For the past week, Colorado Department of Transportation crews have worked around the clock to get the pass open. The southwest Colorado highway was closed since Sunday, March 3.

SOUTHWEST COLORADO ― The Colorado Department of Transportation is pleased to announce that US Highway 550 Red Mountain Pass has reopened. Snow removal operations have been completed along the entire mountain corridor between Silverton and Ouray. The pass was closed for more than two weeks, since Sunday, March 3.

Now that the highway is open, CDOT urges travelers to drive with caution. Motorists will encounter equipment working all along the pass. Snow removal operations will continue to widen and clear the shoulders of the roadway. CDOT also advises the public to be aware of changing weather, possible bank slides blocking lanes as the weather warms, and the potential for ice and rockfall over the next several months.

“Although the first day of spring was just marked on the calendar this week, storms are still very likely to happen in our southwest mountains. Heavy spring snow storms could mean adverse driving conditions and continued potential avalanche danger,” said CDOT Maintenance Superintendent, Greg Stacy. “We advise drivers to not stop in avalanche prone areas.”

Stacy thanked the local communities, residents and area visitors for their patience during this extended safety closure. Stacy commended the forecasting efforts the Colorado Avalanche Information Center and the partnership with the sister agency. He also recognized the tireless work of CDOT maintenance operators, mechanics and support staff.

“This was a difficult and challenging operation,” Stacy said. “Mother nature kept hitting us with multiple storms in a row. It was frustrating because the conditions forced us off the mountain for days because of the threat of avalanches hitting the highway. However, we knew the risk was too high and it was not safe to work. It was the right thing to do for the safety of our operators.”

After last Friday’s helicopter operations more than 20 avalanche paths were released allowing crews safely back onto the pass. Teams of operators with equipment started the difficult task of clearing the massive amounts of snow on the 20-mile stretch of highway. Snow removal work was challenging because many of the slides brought down debris such as rocks, limbs, trees as well as an 11 ft. wide boulder. Since Friday, crews of four to five operators on each side of the pass were assigned to 12-hour shifts working around the clock in order to get the pass open.

A considerable amount of coordination was required organizing and directing resources from across the state. Equipment was brought in from several other CDOT areas, as well as assistance from one county government agency. Bull dozers, track hoes, loaders and snow blowers were transported from Craig, Grand Junction, Alamosa, Nucla, Rico, Durango and Hinsdale County.  

RED MOUNTAIN EFFORTS AT A GLANCE:

Time closed:

 

19 days

Miles of highway:

 

Approximately 20 miles

Avalanche paths reaching the highway:

 

21 slides

Number of avalanche mitigation operations:

 

3 ground operations, 2 helicopter missions

Average snow depth on highway:

 

3 ft.

Range of snow depth of slides on highway:

 

10 – 60 ft.

CDOT employees:

 

20+

CAIC employees:

 

3

Equipment:

 

12+

Cost:

 

Yet to be determined  

 

 

STAY INFORMED:

Colorado: The Official State Web Portal