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Rock-slide concern in Ute Pass addressed by CDOT

By Scott Harrison
Published On: Jul 31 2014 09:39:32 PM CDT

The agency says it's doing all it can to protect drivers from slides and falls caused by rainy spring and summer.

EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. -

The Colorado Department of Transportation said Thursday it has done all it can to protect drivers along U.S. 24 in Ute Pass from rock slides and falls caused by above-average rainfall this year.

CDOT has a system of nets and concrete barriers designed to keep falling rocks off the highway in the highest-risk areas, said spokesman Bob Wilson.

"We don't need additional mitigation because we've already done what we can," he said.

CDOT also has done rock scaling -- knocking down rocks that are likely to fall.

A minor rock slide near Waldo Canyon on Thursday morning remained on the shoulder and didn't reach the highway surface or affect traffic, Wilson said, but the incident left drivers wondering if it's the start of a second consecutive active rock-slide season.

Experts predicted that rock slides would become more common in the pass because the 2012 Waldo Canyon Fire burned vegetation off the mountain and left it unable to soak up rainfall.

"I do have a concern about seeing (rock slides) more often," said Eric Leonard, a geology professor at Colorado College.  "I'm encouraged by the fact that this rainy summer hasn't done too much, apparently.  I think that CDOT probably did a pretty good job on Highway 24."

Most drivers accept rock slides as part of living in the mountains.  But Brenda Kiskey, of Manitou Springs, goes a step further.

"Usually before I get into the car, I'm getting on the Internet looking up what the weather's doing, (learning) what to expect on my drive home," she said.  "Just try to anticipate any problems and if I need to figure out a different route to get home.  That's what I'm doing every day."

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