I-70 rockfall work finished in a day

Traffic is backed up from the Cameo exit to Palisade exit 42 in the eastbound lanes of Interstate 70 on Monday while crews pried precarious rocks from canyon walls. Some motorists waited up to an hour on the highway.

Additional rockfall mitigation work undertaken Monday along a problematic stretch of Interstate 70 was successfully completed by midafternoon and won't need to continue today.

"They were able to get all the rocks down fairly quickly this time," Colorado Department of Transportation spokeswoman Breanna Rogers said of the team.

Monday's work required closures of both eastbound and westbound lanes for blasting work at the mitigation site, which is near the Cameo exit at milepost 45. It also necessitated a closure of the right eastbound lane for cleanup of debris.

Rogers said a couple of tons of rock were brought down. Some debris hit the roadway, but most hit the rockfall fence being installed there and a ditch line.

CDOT contractor Rock Solid Solutions conducted the work, which also involved scaling. That entails workers using tools and devices to physically pry rocks from the cliffsides.

Crews noticed the need for the mitigation work during ongoing installation of the rockfall fence. Rogers said crews had determined that some rock was going to come down before the fence was finished.

She said that danger is now over and work will resume on installing the fence. She said there isn't a current estimate for when that work will be completed, but the mitigation team says it appears they got all the rocks down that looked like they needed to come down.

Rogers voiced appreciation to the public for dealing with the inconveniences of rockfall work that has dated from July.

The prior mitigation work and ongoing fence installation had a combined $1.3 million price tag prior to Monday. Rogers said she didn't immediately have an updated estimate that included the cost for Monday's work.

The work is occurring below where CDOT says landowner Rudy Fontanari released large volumes of water in a quarry, weakening canyon walls. The Colorado Mined Land Reclamation Board fined him $43,000 in late August.

The state Attorney General's Office, representing CDOT, advised Fontanari's attorney in a letter this summer to notify his insurance companies about his actions.

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