CDOT between 'Rock and Hard Place' with Rockfall Budget

By: Jessica Zartler Email
By: Jessica Zartler Email

The Colorado Department of Transportation says it will not do anymore rockfall work in Glenwood Canyon where a boulder rolled onto I–70 last week.

But the agency says it is keeping a watchful eye across the state as the snow starts to melt.

CDOT says the canyons of Glenwood and Debeque are some of the most dangerous areas for rockslides but with a tight budget, CDOT says it's between a rock and a hard place when it comes to preventing these types of slides.

Dane Eschelbach spends his work day on the highway.

"I've been driving the 18 wheeler for about 15 years," Eschelbach told 11 News at the truck stop on Highway 6 & 50 near Fruita Monday.

And when he drives through Debeque and Glenwood Canyons, it's not the beauty that catches his eye--it's the giant rocks.

"Every once and a while I happen to glance up to them hoping none of them will fall on me."

CDOT says it tries to prevent these big boulders from falling onto roads by removing rocks that look like they're coming loose and putting up fencing.

"It's Colorado, I don't think we will ever prevent all of the rockfall it kind of goes with the territory," CDOT Maintenance Superintendent Toby Brown told 11 News on Monday.

Debeque and Glenwood Canyons are ranked as some of the most hazardous areas because of how steep the mountains are and how much traffic passes through.

But CDOT says there's no money set aside right now to prevent rocks from falling.

In fact, there's nothing planned for the next four years.

"We would always take more funding for rockfall areas. It's a high impact area but the roadway surfaces come first," said Brown.

But CDOT says if they find a dangerous spot the agency will find the money to fix it.

Maintenance workers say drivers should always be aware of their surroundings and watch the road in case rocks come tumbling down.

And to make sure he keeps on trucking, Dane Eschelbach watches the road and the rocks.

CDOT says there are three million rockslides every year and in the last ten years there have been seven fatalities.

Even though the budget is tight, officials say they've gotten the state to fork over more money for rock fall work. When they first started a decade ago it was $750,000, this year it's almost $3 million.


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