Skip to main content
Lasque Tiarc

Shortcut for “critical” local travel created near Colorado Bridge closure

Vaseline 2 months ago

The Colorado Department of Transportation and Gunnison County have offered a twice-daily shortcut along a mountain dirt road to local drivers who don’t have access to a convenient route between Gunnison and Montrose.

A pilot vehicle will guide traffic along Gunnison County Road 26 once in each direction, morning and afternoon, beginning Monday morning, according to a combined news release from the two agencies.

The shortcut is limited to ‘critical’ local travel. No commercial vehicles weighing more than 16,000 pounds (gross vehicle weight) and no trailers are permitted.

US 50 crosses Blue Mesa Reservoir near the Dillon Pinnacles. The bridge is currently closed after a crack was discovered in the steel supporting structure.

Colorado Department of Transportation

These vehicles, as well as any “through traffic” seeking more distant destinations, must use Interstate 70 to the north or US 160 to the south.

Local travelers have had to use these alternate routes since CDOT closed Bridge K-07-B on Thursday, forcing them to travel up to 350 miles and eight hours. The drive between Montrose and Gunnison normally takes 75 minutes.

“CDOT understands the inconvenience this causes and is quickly evaluating options to improve options for residents, businesses and travelers on the Western Slope,” the news release said.

The crack was found Thursday in the steel support structure of the US 50 bridge that crosses the Blue Mesa Reservoir. Crews are still inspecting the remainder of the bridge’s three spans, as well as another nearby bridge built with a similar design.

Colorado Department of Transportation

CDOT closed the bridge Thursday after finding cracks in the steel support structure. The bridge allows US 50 to cross the western side of the Blue Mesa Reservoir and connect the north and south shores of the largest lake in Colorado. The bridge and dam of the reservoir were both built in the 1960s.

CDOT stated in a news release Saturday that it was working with the Federal Highway Administration to develop a plan for repairs to the bridge. This is while remaining inspections of all three spans of the bridge are still being completed. According to CDOT, the recent inspections are required by the FHA for a specific type of steel structure.

Crews are also inspecting a bridge “with similar characteristics” as K-07-B, located a few miles west of it.

The steel support structure of the US 50 bridge over the Blue Mesa Reservoir.

Colorado Department of Transportation

CDOT has also tentatively selected K Protein Infrastructure, a private contractor “with unique expertise in steel bridges and the ability to provide additional resources to the on-site engineering teams at the bridge,” for the repair project. No timetable has been set for the launch, let alone the completion of the project.

Minor upgrades were made on County Road 26 this weekend ahead of Monday’s additional traffic. Regular maintenance will occur while the road is in use as a local detour, per CDOT.