SAN MIGUEL COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – Authorities with the U.S. Forest Service directed San Miguel County to close and repair damage to Imogene Pass Road on Thursday, days before the Labor Day Weekend and incoming winter weather.
Bridges on the Telluride side of the pass were inspected recently and judged to be structurally unsound. One, in fact, is on the verge of collapse, according to Megan Eno, a ranger with the USFS’s Grand Mesa-Uncompaghre District.
“The timing is awful, just before a holiday weekend,” Eno told CBS4. “It’s one of the most popular 4×4 mountain passes in the area, probably in the state.”
Imogene Pass Road climbs to more than 13,100 feet elevation between Ouray and Telluride.
The bridges span steep gullies that are creeks in the spring and dry out later in the summer. They are in steep terrain and there is no safe way around them.
USFS has ordered the closure of Imogene Pass from below the town of Tomboy to the Smuggler Mine to all motorized vehicles effective 3pm today due to “failing bridges.” No incident or injuries. Re-opening anticipates mid-late next week. #imogenepass
— San Miguel Sheriff (@SheriffAlert) September 3, 2020
Perry Reed, president of the Wild Bunch 4 Wheel Drive Club, drove the road yesterday and noticed the damage.
“I was thinking to myself, ‘This bridge is tilting a little more than usual,'” Perry said. “It’s been tilting for years. Somebody was going to fall off of it.”
The road will be closed between the Tomboy ghost town/mine site and the Smuggler’s Mine ruins along a stretch on the Telluride side of the pass. There will be good turnarounds at the closures for travelers to drive the remaining sections of road.
“You can drive a majority of the road and still make it a day of it,” Eno said.
Eno said the road is within the Uncompaghre National Forest, but the USFS has a Schedule A agreement that puts the road’s maintenance in the hands of the county. San Miguel road crews plan to drive up the road Tuesday, install temporary structures in place of the deteriorating bridges, and re-open the road Wednesday.
That is, of course, weather permitting.
“We could be snowed out at any time,” Eno added.
Long rang solutions are in the works. Eno said personnel are working on designs and funding for a more permanent project next spring.