Colorado Department of Transportation using bombs to dislodge rocks over Highway 550 near Ouray

OURAY, Colo. - The Colorado Department of Transportation is using 30-pound bombs to dislodge rocks that have kept U.S. Highway 550 in southwestern Colorado closed since Jan. 12.

The closure has severed the only direct route from Ouray to Silverton, normally a 70-mile drive over Red Mountain Pass. The detour over Dallas Divide and Lizard Head Pass adds nearly 100 miles to the trip.

Transportation officials say an average of 2,200 vehicles a day use the highway.

"Every morning we see more rocks that have come down overnight—rocks that are falling from nearly 1,000 feet above the roadway with high velocity," said CDOT Region 5 Transportation Director Kerrie Neet. "We are working as quickly as possible to reduce the risk before we open the highway."

During the day, crews had been bringing the rocks down by hand, with the use of 5-foot long pry bars, to make the highway safe. However, Wednesday they used 10 bombs to bring down the rocks faster.

Work will continue through the weekend with scaling and netting installation.

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