Shale Bluffs rockfall work will extend into January | AspenTimes.com

Shale Bluffs rockfall work will extend into January

Aspen Times staff report
Aspen, CO Colorado

Janet Urquhart The Aspen Times

ASPEN – Work to prevent rocks from falling onto Highway 82 at Shale Bluffs, outside of Aspen, will extend into January, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation.

The $1.5 million project began Sept. 13 and was initially expected to wrap up by the end of November, but poor weather has kept contractor Rocksolid Solutions from working on some days, according to CDOT. In addition, the project has been expanded to involve a two-layer barrier that engineers hope will keep the unstable bluffs from spilling rocks onto the east-bound, or upvalley, lanes of the highway. Crews are installing 75,000 square feet of wire mesh, designed to catch smaller rocks, beneath the cable netting, designed to capture larger rocks.

“This mesh has smaller openings, designed to keep the small rocks and debris from sloughing off the slope, as routinely happened before,” said CDOT project engineer Josh Cullen in a press release.

Also part of the project, he said, is the repair of a damaged concrete retaining wall on the downvalley lanes.

The work is now expected to finish on Jan. 16.

The project has involved crew members who are experienced rock climbers, Cullen noted at the scene on Wednesday. The work has involved anchoring rocks by drilling and inserting steel bars that are typically 8 to 10 feet long into the bluffs and knocking down loose rocks by hand or machine. The patching of concrete barriers and the roadway is also planned where necessary, and crews are cleaning out existing accumulated rock debris that has piled up behind the concrete barrier that separates the highway from the steep bluffs.

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The project will continue to impact travel in the upvalley lanes. A daily, right-lane closure is in effect Monday through Friday and on some Saturdays, though the lane is left open during the peak morning commute, from 6 to 9 a.m. Traffic heading upvalley is completely stopped on occasion for up to 15 minutes at a stretch to accommodate the work.

Once work on the bluffs is finished, downvalley traffic will encounter a single-lane closure during the repair of the damaged barrier, according to CDOT. The work is expected to require three or four days in January.

There will be no work at the site on the Christmas and New Year’s holiday weekends, from Thursday through Sunday, according to CDOT.

Shale Bluffs was one of six sites around the state singled out this year for rockfall work. It was No. 24 on a list of 756 chronic rockfall areas around Colorado, according to CDOT. The amount of traffic on the highway pushed the project up on the list.