Feds Grant Big Bucks for Red Mountain Pass Repairs
by Samantha Wright
Aug 18, 2012 | 2382 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print

OURAY COUNTY – The Colorado Department of Transportation has received $1.75 million worth of federal grant funding to shore up some aging crib wall structures south of Ouray on U.S. Highway 550/Red Mountain Pass.

The project is slated to start next spring or summer, and take two to three months to complete. It will complement similar work already underway in the Ruby Walls area, as CDOT embarks on an ambitious long-term mission to replace 51 failing crib walls on the pass that urgently need repair or replacement.

“All of them were built when Highway 550 became part of the nation’s highway system in the 1930s,” said CDOT spokesman Bob Wilson.

The federal grant funding will be combined with $930,000 in additional money from the State of Colorado’s Funding Advancements for Surface Transportation and Economic Recovery  fund to replace three crib walls between mile markers 88 and 89, and to widen highway shoulders supported by the structures.

“This is along the narrowest section of Highway 550,” Wilson explained. “Currently, the crib walls are bulging and and leaning out, creating voids under the roadway. We want to take care of it before anything happens. If the crib walls here failed, it would shut down the highway for a significant amount of time, which could cause big problems in the region since there is not an easy alternate route.”

CDOT’s Region 5, which covers this portion of the state, considers the project high priority, Wilson said.

Red Mountain Pass, with its infamous hairpin curves and narrow lanes gouged out of the sides of mountains, sees an average of 3,000 cars per day and gets 400 inches of snow annually. These factors, coupled with avalanches, extreme temperature fluctuations, drainage issues and steep grades, create a lot of stress on the aging highway that spans a 11,017-foot mountain pass connecting the communities of Silverton and Ouray.

The federal grant for the Red Mountain Pass project comes from the Public Lands Highway Discretionary program, which provides resources to improve access to federal lands throughout the country. Red Mountain Pass is flanked by the Uncompahgre and San Juan National Forests.

U.S. Senator Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) announced the grant award on July 31. Highway projects in Archuleta and Mesa Counties also won significant funding.

“These grants are important economic tools for Colorado communities,” said Bennet. “They will help enable the completion of much-needed infrastructure improvements that will keep vital roadways safe and reliable and support local economic development.”

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