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More rock falls, slides possible, CDOT says

By Scott Harrison
Published On: Oct 03 2013 06:24:30 PM CDT

CDOT says recent rain, upcoming freeze-thaw cycles are factors.

EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. -

A combination of wildfires, heavy rain, temperature changes and erosion could lead to an increase in rocks falling on state highways, a rock fall specialist said Thursday.

At least three rock falls have been reported this week, the latest on U.S. 6 in Clear Creek County on Thursday morning.  It closed the highway for several hours.  Authorities said no one was injured in the rock falls.

Ty Ortiz, a specialist with the Colorado Department of Transportation, said contributing factors could result in more falls or in falls that contain greater amounts of debris.  The state has more than 750 areas where falls are a concern, he said.

"The conditions we're seeing now, we usually don't see until spring," said Ortiz.  "I think it's a legitimate concern.  The good part is we're ending the monsoon season and getting into a drier part of the year."

Ortiz named U.S. 24 in Ute Pass, U.S. 50 in Bighorn Sheep Canyon west of Cañon City, and Interstate 25 in Raton Pass as areas of particular concern in southern Colorado.

Ortiz said workers will watch for loose rock and either remove it or create areas for it to fall safely away from highways.  A project to remove loose rock in Ute Pass is expected to be completed by the end of October.

CDOT has a budget of $9.3 million for rock fall issues.

"Whether that will be enough is too soon to say," said Ortiz.

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