Crews on Tuesday completed paving a section of Colorado Highway 145 damaged by the fall of Memorial Rock and another large boulder. They came tumbling down May 24, Memorial Day weekend, about 10 miles north of Dolores.
Colorado Department of Transportation crews will take another week to add a guardrail along the boulder, complete ditch work, restripe and do shoulder cleanup, said Lisa Schwantes, CDOT spokeswoman.
For the next week, travelers should expect 5- to 15-minute delays at the site, near mile marker 21, as workers make the finishing touches on a $1.3 million, hastily arranged repair job.
“We are having a problem with people stopping and hiking to get their picture taken next to the rock,” Schwantes said. “I understand the curiosity and fascination about the rock, but it fell on private property. We have people jumping the fence, crawling under the fence. We want to be respectful of private property owners.”
Work is expected to be done on the project July 26, Schwantes said.
Schwantes said sightseers are putting their and workers’ lives at risk when they stop to hike to the rock. The problem, she said, happens a few times a day as people pull over just outside the work zone and hike to satisfy their curiosity or to get a selfie near the boulder.
When the project is complete, Schwantes said motorists should notice a wider shoulder alongside the northbound lane. She said crews were able to add another 4 feet to the northbound land shoulder as part of the project.
CDOT, Schwantes said, doesn’t have the funding to purchase additional right of way that would allow for a pull-off to allow travelers the opportunity to pull over and gawk at the big chunk of Dakota sandstone.
No sign or roadside marker is planned to note Memorial Rock, Schwantes said.
On May 24, a 90-foot-long block sandstone sheared off and broke into two massive boulders that plunged 1,000 feet onto the road, narrowly missing three vehicles, witnesses said.
The boulder on the highway, which was blown to smithereens, was estimated to be 48 feet long, 18 feet wide and 18 feet high. It weighed about 2.3 million pounds, Schwantes said. The other boulder, Memorial Rock, crossed the highway and “blew out an 8-foot trench.” It was estimated to be 50 feet long, 50 feet wide and 26 feet high and weigh 8.5 million pounds.
Jim Ellson and his son were fishing at a nearby pond when they saw the boulders come down.
“It sounded like a jet engine,” said Ellson. “I told my son, ‘Look at that!’ You could see massive boulders crashing down and tons of dust and debris being plowed up. We were in awe, kind of shocked. What a sight.”