Falling rocks make Eagle Co.’s Hwy 131 dangerous | VailDaily.com

Falling rocks make Eagle Co.’s Hwy 131 dangerous

Melanie Wong
Vail CO, Colorado

BOND, Colorado ” Patty Goodwin has to stop her car and clear the road of rocks several times a month. Sometimes they are too large to move, but she tries to clear what she can carry, she said.

Goodwin, who lives right outside of Bond, is not clearing her driveway or a rural mountain road ” she is clearing Highway 131.

The stretch of highway between State Bridge and Bond is notorious for being strewn with large rocks and boulders that fall from nearby cliffs, she said.

“I drive it everyday and I have to be very watchful. We’ve had up to 4-foot boulders out there,” she said.

The rocks fall from the cliffs after rain or thawing, or are loosened by animals going up the hillside. They are rarely cleared and often cause damage to cars, residents said.

“It’s not just little rocks that you can drive over. They’re big, and all of a sudden you come around a bend, and there they are,” said Bond resident Shelly McCoy.

She drives the stretch a few times a week and has damaged her wheels before, she said.

But the area is not a “top priority” road, said Jim Pitkin, maintenance supervisor for the Colorado Department of Transportation, so it looks like residents are going to have to deal with the rocky roads.

“Those aren’t major hazards,” he said.

The department has a fund specifically for building barriers, putting up fencing, or carving the cliffs to keep the rocks at bay.

However, there are many highways with the same problem in the state, such as I-70 going through Georgetown, and that is where the money goes, Pitkin said.

“We just don’t have the funds to take care of it,” he said.

If there are large rocks in the road that need to be cleared, drivers should contact road maintenance or Vail dispatch, said Pitkin.

“We’ll get someone out there,” he said.

Often people who have damaged their cars because of the rocks stop by McCoy’s house to use the phone, she said.

The area has no cell phone reception, and can be a few miles to walk into town.

Bond resident Barry Simmers said that every winter he sees at least five or more cars and trucks on the side of the road with bent axles or wheel damage. He hit a rock several years ago coming home in a snowstorm, and the impact tore up the bottom of his car and pushed the transmission up, he said.

“It cost me $500 to fix my car,” he said. “I don’t care if you’re going 15 mph. If you hit one of these rocks you are going to do major damage to your vehicle or yourself.”

Although it is a year-round problem, it is especially dangerous in the winter because people can get stranded, Simmers said.

He would like to see some permanent barriers at the trouble spots to keep rocks off the road, he said.

The road is commonly used by truckers and people going between Vail and Steamboat, residents said.

“This is definitely something that needs to be addressed,” Goodwin said. “This is no longer a rural road, with all the truckers and skiers.”

The road has always been dangerous ” rocky, winding, slick in the winter, and not well plowed ” and not much has been done about it, some residents said.

“I’ve lived up here for 27 years and (the rocks have) always been a problem. I guess we’re used to it and just deal with it,” McCoy said.

The only time the rocks are cleared is when the snow plows come by, said Jean Naumann, who lives between Bond and McCoy and commutes upvalley every day.

And even then, the roads are not plowed or sanded as often as needed, she said.

McCoy resident Cass Galloway said that even if there were barriers built, rocks might bounce into the road anyway. The best policy is to slow down and be careful, she said.

“It’s not a great road,” she said. “It’s winding and not wonderfully well designed. It’s a challenge, and you just have to slow down.”

Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 748-2928 or mwong@vaildaily.com.

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