Sinkhole forms under Highway 24 near Red Cliff
May 2, 2014
RED CLIFF — Because it’s a sinkhole and it sank in May, it shall be dubbed “sinkhole de Mayo.”
We’ve been waiting since 2003 to use that line. We’ll explain that in a minute.
First things first, though.
A sinkhole measuring 9 feet wide fell in Friday morning under Highway 24, a half mile south of the Battle Mountain summit.
Colorado Department of Transportation crews went to work on it almost before the gravel stopped rattling around and said they hoped to have it repaired by the end of the day Friday.
Jonathan Johnson is CDOT’s lead hand on that stretch of highway. He said they would try to keep one lane of the road open as they make repairs.
The plan is to shore it up by filling in and compacting material under the roadbed where it washed away underneath the asphalt.
Crews alternated traffic through one lane as they worked to repair the road.
The actual hole in the pavement is 3 feet in diameter and fell exactly on the double yellow line going down the middle of the road.
The roadbed underneath is washed away for about 9 feet. The hole stretches halfway into the lane nearest the cliff and all the way under the lane to the shoulder against the mountainside.
Steve Barry drives a snowcat in Vail and was headed south toward Leadville when he drove by. He’s originally from Haines, Alaska, and because he’s a certified underground miner, he saw absolutely no reason to resist crawling into the hole. So he didn’t. Resist, that is.
By taking a closer view, he found that it appears an old culvert caused the damage, an assessment with which CDOT crews concurred.
No one was injured and no vehicles were damaged in Friday’s sinkhole de Mayo.
Why Sinkhole de Mayo?
If that sinkhole that swallowed part of I-70 more than a decade ago had fallen one day sooner, it could have been sinkhole de Mayo.
As it was, on June 1, 2003, a 20-foot sinkhole opened up and swallowed a big piece of I-70.
Bighorn Creek in East Vail overran its banks during a rainstorm, causing a part of the interstate to collapse into that 20-foot sinkhole.
Parts of East Vail were flooded and I-70 was closed from Copper Mountain to Vail for four days. Motorists were forced to take a 54-mile detour through Leadville and, ironically, Highway 24.
A couple of summers ago, a huge piece of Highway 24 collapsed into an abandoned railroad tunnel near the top of Tennessee Pass. That sinkhole was 20 feet by 30 feet around and at least 100 feet deep, but didn’t sink until well into the summer.
It’s been a tough spring for Highway 24. Already, a rockslide closed the road in both directions and more than 150 tons of rock crashed onto the roadway in the middle of the night and did significant road damage.