Feb 20, 2011 5:36 PM by Andy Koen
US Highway 50 west of Cotopaxi has reopened for the first time in nearly a week. Workers with the Colorado Department of Transportation lifted the barriers just before 12:30 p.m. Sunday.
An estimated 7,000 tons of rock fell on the roadway last Monday in an area approximately 2 miles west of town.
Maintenance Supervisor Chuck Kline says, surprisingly, there was very little damage done to the road surface itself and any repairs will be minimal.
Kline credits hard work and proper planning to help them clear the road 2 days ahead of schedule.
"We got in there worked and everybody worked really good as a team and worked hard," Kline said.
Crews were optimistic last week about clearing the road even sooner, but the sheer size of some of the boulders made them reconsider the equipment necessary.'
"Initially we thought we had quite a few (boulders) in the 5 ton range," Kline said. "We ended up with one that was probably in the 20 ton range."'
Contractor Kiewit Construction brought in hammer drills to break apart the large rocks. Kline says rocks that were too big to hammer were blasted apart with dynamite.
"Once we got the blaster on site, everything that we couldn't hit with the hammer drill, we hit with dynamite and it all went well from there."
The timing worked out in the state's favor. Heavy mountain snowstorms over the weekend pulled many C-DOT workers away from the rock slide job to operate snowplows.
Cotopaxi Schools are expected to return to classes as normal this week. Superintendent Geoff Gerk canceled classes on Tuesday because of the slide. A large number of students, teachers and other school staff lived to the west of the slide and would have had to take a nearly 3 hour detour to get to school.