US 550 opens to alternating traffic south of Ouray

Courtesy CDOT

UPDATE: (5:30 PM, July 9)


The Colorado Department of Transportation opened US 550 south of Ouray Monday evening after mud and rock slides blocked the highway in several spots Sunday. Motorists can expect delays as one-lane, alternating traffic is allowed, controlled by portable traffic signals.

“Heavy rains in the high country yesterday resulted in flooding and debris flows blocking the highway,” said John Palmer, CDOT Deputy Superintendent of Maintenance in a press release. “To ensure the safety of the traveling public and our maintenance crews while they operated heavy equipment, the highway was closed through the night and today for clearing and damage assessment.”

Rock and mud anywhere from four feet to 10 feet deep had to be cleared from the highway. CDOT engineers and staff are assessing any possible damage to the highway and structures. “Our team paid particular attention to a cribwall which was in the path of one of the more significant rock slides,” explained Kevin Curry, CDOT Program Engineer. “Cribwalls are essentially retaining structures which stabilize the road surface. They are designed to support highways which have steep drop-offs.” 

A geotechnical crew is being dispatched to not only help assess damage to the roadway, but to assess the stability of the cliffs and mountainsides surrounding the highway. “As our teams move forward assessing damage and planning for required repairs," said Mike McVaugh, CDOT southwest regional transportation director, "we will be diligent in working with both San Juan and Ouray Counties and the communities along this busy corridor to establish a plan for how we will manage traffic through this operation.” 

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