US 550 Red Mountain Pass Avalanche Control System

About the Project:

This project involves the installation of O’bellx and Gasex fixed avalanche control systems, including concrete bases, at three slide paths north of the Red Mountain Pass summit: Blue Point, Blue Willow and Mother Cline. The system, the first to be installed on any US 550 pass, will provide more efficient avalanche control, making the area safer for CDOT crews and the traveling public. This remote system is also more reliable and safer for CDOT personnel to operate.

Every winter CDOT and its sister agency, the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, regularly monitor and control some 278 of 522 known avalanche paths located above Colorado highways. The monitoring and mitigation help prevent natural avalanches from impacting public travel. When there is high risk of avalanche danger, CDOT will close highways at the location of the avalanche path in order to conduct avalanche control operations. While the road is safely closed to any traffic, avalanches are triggered. Maintenance crews with heavy equipment then clear the highway of any snow and debris that reached the road. The highway can then be re-opened for safer public travel.

Project Benefits

  • Gazex and O'bellx systems are safer to operate than those that use explosives
  • The remote-controlled systems will enable more efficient avalanche control, making the areas safer for CDOT crews and travelers
  • The systems can be operated at night, allowing CDOT maintenance crews to clear the road before morning

Work Schedule:

Work hours will be from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, with some weekend work possible. It is anticipated that travel impacts will occur primarily in the first two weeks, as equipment is being mobilized to the site. Then, travel will be impacted only periodically, as necessary, for rockfall mitigation or other work-site activities.

Traffic Impacts:

Motorists can expect the following impacts during the first two weeks of the project:

  • Tuesday, July 11:  At MP 81, there will be full traffic holds that could last up to 20 minutes, then traffic queues will be cleared in each direction before the next hold
  • Wednesday-Friday, July 12-14:  Periods of single-lane, alternating traffic; and full traffic holds of up to 20 minutes are possible
  • Monday, July 17:  At MP 81, full traffic holds of up to 20 minutes during morning hours; then full traffic holds at MP 89 (9 miles north of the summit) in the afternoon

Work this Week & Lane Closures Red Mtn. Pass Avalanche Control System

Project Facts

  • Construction Cost: $744,900
  • Contractor: Geovert
  • Timeline: July through October 2023
  • Location: US 550 Red Mountain Pass 
    • Nearest Town/City: Ouray, Silverton
    • Mile Point(s): 81 and 89
    • County: Ouray 

US 550 Avalanche Control System Map

US 550 Avalanche Control project location map