MANITOU SPRINGS, Colo. - Colorado Department of Transportation employed its boulder-buster Friday to remove boulders from Tuesday night's rockslide on Highway 24.
C-DOT shut down the right lane of westbound Highway 24 near mile marker 296 at 9:30 a.m. It planned to re-open the road by 2 p.m.
Highway maintenance supervisor Gary Heller said conditions in the corridor make it prone to rockslides this spring.
"I always try to use the analogy of what water pipe does during the winter time," said Heller. "Water gets in there, the temperature drops, the pipe freezes. Tt's fine as long as it stays frozen but once it starts to thaw again, it expands."
The process loosens the rock and leads to rockslides. Heller also said loose rocks are more vulnerable in the wake of the Waldo Canyon fire.
"Before, we had a golf course," said Heller, referring to lush forests above the Highway 24 corridor.
"Golf courses absorb a lot of water, and it retains it. Now the dynamic has changed since the fire, and it's similar to a parking lot. A parking lot doesn't absorb any water, it just carries it."
The water loosens rocks and pushes debris down the slopes. C-DOT's team of geologists identified two loose boulders above the corridor. It plans to remove the rocks next week.
C-DOT crews used a technique to break the boulders into smaller rocks. C-DOT's largest machine is a front loader with the capability of carrying five tons. The boulders C-DOT tackled along Highway 24 were also the same size as the front loader.
Once the boulders were broken, crews transported the pieces to a pit in Cascade. C-DOT is stockpiling heavy rocks for potential floods. If the corridor floods this summer, it will use the rocks for flood control.