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Driver hits boulder from rockfall on Colorado Highway 3

Department of Transportation cautions drivers to be extra careful during freeze-thaw cycle
A woman driving a Toyota 4Runner hit a boulder that came crashing down Monday night on Colorado Highway 3. (Courtesy of Colorado Department of Transportation)

A driver was taken to Mercy Hospital on Monday night after hitting a boulder on Colorado Highway 3 in a well-known rockfall area.

The Colorado Department of Transportation was notified just after 7 p.m. that a car had driven into a 4-foot-by-2-foot chunk of rock at mile marker 1.2 just north of the highway’s intersection with U.S. Highway 160.

The female driver of the Toyota 4Runner suffered an injury from the vehicle’s air bag, according to the Colorado State Patrol. The injury report was later revised to a property damage crash.

“She probably got checked at the hospital and released,” said Capt. John Trentini.

Details about the driver and incident are limited until a crash report is filed, which usually takes a couple of days, Trentini said. The 4Runner, which had to be towed after the crash, had Colorado license plates.

The road was closed for about an hour while CDOT removed the debris. The crash occurred below an area that is netted to keep rocks from falling onto the road, but the netting is a preventive tool that doesn’t always help, especially if it is a large chunk that comes down, said CDOT spokeswoman Lisa Schwantes.

“It’s real shale-like rock that is loose and prone to rockfall because of how loose the overall composition is in that area,” Schwantes said. “So we definitely have done some preventive measures there because of issues in the past.”

Freezing temperatures followed by warmer days that thaw the moisture inside the rocks and crevices is the usual culprit for rockfalls this time of year.

“That thaw-freeze cycle is just not good for rock and it tends to loosen,” Schwantes said. “And it’s the same with potholes. We are definitely moving into the pothole season and unfortunately we are right at the cusp of the seasons where it’s still too moist. If the ground is moist and the asphalt has too much moisture in it, we can’t fill those yet because it’s just going to come right out. So we wait for a dry spell and then get those potholes as quickly as we can.”

Schwantes advises drivers to be “very, very cautious and alert” for potholes and while driving near any type off cliffside where rocks could fall.


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