LAKE COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4)– Crews with the Colorado Department of Transportation are busy clearing snow from Independence Pass to open it nearly two weeks early.

The revised opening date for the 12,095-foot pass is Friday, May 11. The goal is to always have the pass open on the Thursday before Memorial Day weekend. This year that day would have been May 24.

Last year, CDOT barely opened the pass by the goal date but did thanks to 14-hour days and a little help from a powerful snow cat.

“This has been an extraordinarily wild swing in snowpack amounts compared to last year,” CAIC Forecaster Rob Hunker said. “We’ve had two extreme years in a row—last year, the snowpack melted around June 23, this year it happened by May 1.”

Since the snow was cleared, CDOT crews have been busy completing the following tasks:

• Moving 256 concrete barriers before clearing ditches
• Hauling out 390 loads of rock debris from the ditches
• Blading 150 tons of asphalt millings on the shoulders to set barrier back onto
• Resetting the 256 barriers and replacing additional that were damaged (much of the damaged barrier has been recycled for other public agency use, saving disposal costs)
• Working with special CDOT crews from Grand Junction to drill and blast six very large rocks in the ditch so they could be hauled away
• Repairing/replacing signs and roadside delineators
• Trimming trees and brush
• Patching pot holes

Final work next week will involve fixing guardrail and blading/clearing more ditches, as necessary with spring run-off.


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