Highway 24 reopens Tuesday after rockslide | VailDaily.com

Highway 24 reopens Tuesday after rockslide

This story has been corrected. A sentence stating the hospital in Leadville has closed has been removed. Some of the hospital’s functions, including emergency room services, remain open while hospital board members, administrators and investors try to find a way to keep the facility running.

EAGLE COUNTY — The road from Minturn to Red Cliff is open again — at least for now.

A massive rockslide on Saturday evening dumped an estimated 400 tons of rock — and several boulders the size of pickup trucks — onto U.S. Highway 24 just above Minturn. The slide damaged two vehicles, but no one was injured.

“This kind of thing can happen almost anywhere. You can be stuck in traffic in Denver for two hours.”
Scott Burgess
Mayor of Red Cliff

Tracy Trulove of the Colorado Department of Transportation said some of the boulders had to be blasted apart so they could be loaded onto trucks. The largest of those boulders actually hit the highway twice, since the slide came down from above the hairpin turns near the base of Battle Mountain.

Trulove said department geologists have determined the slide began nearly 1,000 feet above the roadway. The result of heavy boulders, distance and gravity left more holes in the road than a slide in April of this year at virtually the same spot.

Given weather conditions, Trulove said crews were only able to do a bit of rock scaling work near the road and send a geological team in a helicopter to take a closer look at the spot the slide began Saturday.

EXTENDED COMMUTES

Closing Highway 24 sent hundreds of Leadville-based commuters over Colorado Highway 91 over Fremont Pass to Copper Mountain. For those who work in Vail, that drive is within a few minutes of the commute along Highway 24.

For those in Red Cliff, though, the drive to work became much, much longer.

Red Cliff Mayor Scott Burgess said that drive could be as long as two hours, although by leaving a bit later Monday morning, Burgess said he and his wife made the trip in an hour and 20 minutes.

MEDICAL CARE

Red Cliff wasn’t totally cut off, since the road to Leadville remained open. Still, Burgess said, emergency services come from Minturn. More concerning, the hospital in Leadville closed recently, leaving medical care a long way off.

Still, Burgess said, people in town did fine. Power, water and phone service were unaffected by the slide, and Mango’s, the town’s only restaurant — and a popular destination for those touring Shrine Pass on skis or by snowmobile — seemed busy through the weekend.

“This kind of thing can happen almost anywhere,” Burgess said. “You can be stuck in traffic in Denver for two hours.”

SUSCEPTIBLE TO SLIDES

But Battle Mountain seems particularly susceptible to slides, and there’s only so much the Department of Transportation can do about it. The main problem, of course, is that mountains are going to slough off rocks. Complicating things is the fact that the hillside above the highway is private property.

“Those rocks came off private property and damaged a public road,” Burgess said. “It’s going to be interesting to see what (the transportation department) does about that.”

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, smiller@vaildaily.com or @scottnmiller.