US 50 Blue Mesa Bridge Update

Public Meeting Announcement

CDOT invites you to an upcoming hybrid public meeting on Tuesday, May 21, at 6:30 p.m. regarding the US 50 Blue Mesa bridge closure. Members of CDOT's leadership team, Kiewit Corporation, and representatives from Gunnison County will be attending in person to provide information about the latest timelines, proposed repairs and detour routes ahead of Memorial Day Weekend. A virtual option is available for this meeting. A light meal will be provided for those joining in person. Spanish and ASL interpretation will be available. Join virtually via Zoom here at 6:30 p.m. The in-person meeting will be held at the Fred Field Center (275 S. Spruce St., Gunnison, CO 81230).

Montrose County residents - please feel free to join the meeting for the general public on Tuesday, May 21, however, CDOT leadership and Montrose County elected officials will be hosting an in-person only meeting for residents of Montrose County on Wednesday, May 22 at 6:30 p.m. at the Gunnison County Event Center (1036 N 7th St., Montrose, CO 81401).  

Overview

A safety closure is in place for a bridge on US Highway 50 located west of Gunnison. The Colorado Department of Transportation has closed the bridge at the urging of the Federal Highway Administration and state bridge engineering experts due to the findings of an ongoing safety inspection, which identified anomalies in the bridge on Thursday, April 18. The closure is in place between US 50 Mile Point 136 and MP 140. Motorists should use COtrip.org to plan an alternate route. There is currently no estimated time for reopening as of Monday, May 20. Updates will be made to this website once an estimate is available.

Follow the US 50 Blue Mesa Bridge Closure Facebook page for updates.

Map depicting closure locations on US 50 west of Gunnison
US 50 map showing the road is closed in both directions from Mile Point 136 to 140 
US 50 bridge crossing the Blue Mesa Reservoir
US 50 bridge crossing the Blue Mesa Reservoir near Dillon Pinnacles that is now closed


Recommended Alternate Routes for US 50 

This closure will create a significant detour for commuters between Montrose and Gunnison. The recommended detour route for through traffic is via I-70 to the north or US 160 to the south. Access the recommended detour route on COtrip here. CDOT understands the inconvenience that this creates and is rapidly evaluating options to improve options for residents, businesses, and travelers on the western slope.

The northern route is 354 miles and requires approximately six hours of travel time. The southern route is 331 miles and requires nearly seven hours of travel time. CDOT and local partners are exploring whether it is feasible at this point in the season to clear local seasonal routes that may be able to significantly reduce the detour time for local travelers. 

Local Access Route for Gunnison, Hinsdale and Montrose counties

On Monday May 20, the County Road 26 bypass will be open multiple times per day in each direction for local public travel with Commercial Motor Vehicle and trailer restrictions, as follows: the State of Colorado legal maximum vehicle dimensions and weights will be enforced. This allows trailers and heavier commercial use of the bypass. If possible, vehicles traveling through Colorado should utilize the alternate state highway detours to the north and south instead of County Road 26. To maintain this as a viable, safe bypass, traffic will be managed using pilot vehicles. CR 26 (also known as Lake City Cutoff) is a high mountain native surface and gravel road. Only on Wednesdays will be a midday closure to repair the road when staff and materials are available.

Monday to Tuesday and Thursday through Sunday Piloted Release Time Schedule

Eastbound Piloted Release Times Westbound Piloted Release Times
6:30 to 7 a.m. 7:30 to 8 a.m.
8:30 to 9 a.m. 9:30 to 10 a.m.
10:30 to 11:30 a.m. - Closed for road maintenance 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. - Closed for road maintenance
11:30 a.m. to Noon 12:30 to 1 p.m.
1:30 to 2 p.m. 2:30 to 3 p.m.
3:30 to 4:30 p.m. - Closed for road maintenance 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. - Closed for road maintenance
4:30 to 5 p.m. 5:30 to 6 p.m.
6:30 to 7 p.m. 7:30 to 8 p.m.
8:30 to 9: 30 p.m. - Closed for road maintenance 8:30 to 9: 30 p.m. - Closed for road maintenance
9:30 to 10 p.m. 10:30 to 11 p.m.

Wednesday Piloted Release Time Schedule

Eastbound Piloted Release Times Westbound Piloted Release Times
6:30 to 7 a.m. 7:30 to 8 a.m.
8:30 to 9 a.m. 9:30 to 10 a.m.
10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. - Closed for road maintenance 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. - Closed for road maintenance
4:30 to 5 p.m. 5:30 to 6 p.m.
6:30 to 7 p.m. 7:30 to 8 p.m.
8:30 to 9: 30 p.m. - Closed for road maintenance 8:30 to 9: 30 p.m. - Closed for road maintenance
9:30 to 10 p.m. 10:30 to 11 p.m.

No other public travel will be allowed outside of these times.

  • No Oversize/Overweight vehicles per Colorado Department of Transportation Regulations. https://leg.colorado.gov/content/size-and-weight-limitations
  • No Placarded Hazardous Materials loads per Colorado Department of Transportation Regulations
  • Prohibited vehicles will need to use detours on Interstate 70 or Colorado Highway 160 to travel between Gunnison and Montrose.
Bicyclists and County Road 26
We strongly recommend that cyclists avoid traveling on CR 26, though it is not prohibited. While the road has been improved to allow for a single lane of timed entry, it is still a compacted dirt surface with the requirement to clear the road before the next timed entry traffic. We cannot guarantee the safety of bicyclists on this route and for that reason it is recommended to use alternate roads for recreational cycling.
We encourage cyclists to explore the numerous local trails available. Not only will this ensure a safer experience, but it will also enhance the enjoyment of your ride. Check with local bike shops for information about where to ride and upcoming events and races.

Resources for Information & Updates:

  • Call (970) 648-4423 for the US 50 Bridge Closure Hotline, it will be staffed 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. Monday through Friday; leave a voicemail for a call back at other times.
  • You can email questions to [email protected].
  • To sign up for text and or email updates on all Gunnison County roadwork messaging, please visit https://www.gunnisoncounty.org/list.aspx to select what updates you’d like to start receiving. For road updates, select for Travel Advisories from the List.

Gunnison County Road 25 remains closed. County Road 25 will remain closed until safety improvements have been completed.

Bypass Guidelines

  • Checking for updates daily is advised in the event bypass access is adjusted due to necessary roadwork from changes in road condition.
  • Local public travel refers to travel related to medical visits, commuting for work, visiting the area, and surrounding communities, and for residents who live on either side of the road closure.
  • To maintain this route crews will work on CR 26 road repairs between release times so no other public travel will be allowed before and after those two timeframes. Ambulances will be utilizing this road as well when critically needed.

Bypass Restrictions

  • The bypass will not be open to vehicles more than 85,000 GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating). https://leg.colorado.gov/content/size-and-weight-limitations.
  • No oversize loads or Hazardous Materials will be allowed.
  • Prohibited vehicles will need to use I-70 or Colorado Highway 160 (US 160) to travel between Gunnison and Montrose.

Frequently Asked Questions

This is an evolving situation, and there is currently no reopening date. CDOT’s goal is to keep nearby residents and the public informed and will provide updates as they develop.

Local public travel refers to travel related to medical visits, commuting for work, visiting the area, and surrounding communities, and for residents who live on either side of the road closure.
County Road 26 is open to trucks, trailers, recreation vehicles and heavier vehicles up to 85,000 pounds that fall within the state’s legal load definition.
Gunnison County is currently working through these various community needs. People with post office boxes can travel to the post office during the regular open hours for County Road 26. The Postmasters have been notified and they don’t anticipate any disruptions to mail delivery. If anyone does experience a problem with mail service, Senator Hickenlooper’s office is helping and people can visit www.hickenlooper.senate.gov/help-with-federal-agencies-form/. Propane is available on both sides of the closure so that shouldn’t be an issue. For trash collected on the east side of the closure for transport to Grand Junction, please contact the County to use the Gunnison landfill. For all other questions, like whether or not trash haulers can access residences on County Roads 25 and 26, please reach out to the project email at [email protected].
Kebler Pass is currently closed due to winter conditions and typically opens in late May. CDOT is working to potentially clear the roadway for use.
HazMat drivers should check with CDOT’s freight office when choosing between the recommended alternate routes (I-70 and US 160). The freight office can be reached at 303-757-9539 or [email protected]. More information is posted to freight.colorado.gov. HazMat vehicles will not be allowed on any local alternate routes available now or in the coming weeks.
Currently, there are no restrictions against boaters driving under the bridge, but please refrain from stopping right under the bridge where inspectors are working above. This could pose a safety risk should a piece of equipment fall from the bridge. CDOT’s concern is vehicles driving on the bridge. The bridge is structurally sound as it stands and does not impact boaters.
The closure point on the Gunnison side has been moved further west to provide access to places like the Bay of Chickens and Elk Creek Marina. Likewise for people on the Montrose side of the reservoir they will be able to access the Lake Fork Marina and recreation areas on that end. When you approach flaggers at the closure point, just let them know that is where you are going and they will let you through. To get to the east side of recreation areas from Montrose and west side recreation areas from Gunnison, people will need to take the County Road 26 cut-through during the set hours of pilot car operations.
Given the declaration of a state emergency, we have activated the state’s recovery task force to coordinate the capacity of various state agencies to address the economic impacts for agriculture, tourism and other impacted economies in the county. The effort will begin with an assessment of the economy by working in collaboration with the impacted jurisdictions and then work with state agencies to find opportunities. Legislation that may be applicable and appropriate to these circumstances was passed two years ago. We will work with the appropriate parties for solutions.
CDOT continues to inspect the bridge to find any further cracks or anomalies. More have been found since the original closure on April 18. CDOT is also working with a team of engineers and contractor Kiewit Infrastructure Co., to identify repair options so bridge repairs can begin as quickly and safely as possible. Now that improvements have been made to County Road 26 (Lake City Cutoff) and the roadway is open to heavier vehicles, CDOT, Gunnison County and Kiewit are monitoring the conditions so spot repairs can be made when needed. The team is also evaluating the potential of using County Road 25 as a detour route. 
There is one other bridge in the state that uses the same steel and construction, just a few miles west on US 50. CDOT is continuing to inspect both bridges, and the results of those inspections will determine next steps.

Key Facts:

  • CDOT has been conducting a special inspection for high-strength steel bridges for the Blue Mesa bridges as required by the Federal Highway Administration. This inspection was required because of known issues with similarly constructed bridges elsewhere in the country. A defect was observed during an early investigation of the bridge at approximately Mile Point 136.3. CDOT immediately brought in a second inspection crew with resources to perform another method for testing whether the defect posed a safety hazard on the bridge. The second inspection took place on Thursday, April 18.
  • CDOT is continuing to assess the safety of the bridge and to quickly determine options for interim and permanent fixes – and will keep the public informed as soon as more information is available. The bridge closure is located between Gunnison and Montrose. It is located east of the US 50 Little Blue Creek Canyon project, which is currently in a planned winter shutdown.
  • Once our inspection plans are finalized and we can more accurately forecast a time frame to complete that work, we will be able to follow up with additional information for the public about the duration of this closure. As more of the inspection work is complete, we will also have more details to share about the condition of the bridges, as well as any restrictions that will need to remain in place while repairs are made.