Colorado Public Works Journal, Spring 2024

SPRING 2024┃61 High-Tech in the High Country Adair Christensen is the SouthwestCommunications Specialist for CDOT and can be contacted at It’s mid-July and your family is ascending the scenic switchbacks of the Million Dollar Highway only to discover that even places as picturesque as Red Mountain Pass have road work delays. This traffic hold is a little different then most, a helicopter hovers above methodically placing concrete forms and large metal pipes on the side of precarious and rocky cliff lines. Tiny figures in reflective orange vests scale the mountainside on ropes. There could be worse places to be stuck in construction. “CDOT engineers typically work on projects like road paving, bridge building and culvert replacement” said Jeff Reichle, CDOT engineer/project manager. “This project took place in a high alpine environment requiring all the construction equipment and supplies to be delivered and installed by helicopter and rope access technicians. It was quite a challenge for our construction team.” By December 2023, the Colorado Department of Transportation and its contractor Geovert had successfully installed remotecontrolled avalanche mitigation systems at three snow slide sites above US 550, between Silverton and Ouray. “These snow slide paths on Red Mountain are known as frequent offenders. CDOT crews shoot these down many times throughout the winter season. Now, with these units permanently installed and pre-loaded on the mountain and ridgelines, operations can take place in the early morning hours before daytime commuter traffic increases, lessening closure impacts for motorists,”said Brian Gorsage, CDOT state avalanche program coordinator. With the newly installed high-tech, high-country units, motorists can experience more reliable travel conditions during the winter. This season, CDOT employees were able to direct resources towards plowing and essential winter maintenance operations. Fewer workers and less time were required to conduct mitigation missions along the mountain corridor. While escaping to the Colorado mountains for your favorite winter activities, you may find that road closure delays are lessened as CDOT continues to construct more efficient and safer high-tech alternatives statewide to perform winter highway maintenance. CDOT Adair Christensen Photo Caption 1: Summer 2023, Geovert utilized technical rope access to successfully install avalanche mitigation equipment above US Highway 550 at a snow slide sites near the summit of Red Mountain Pass (Photo Credit: Jeff Reichle, CDOT engineer/project manager) Photo Caption 2: Winter 2023, Brian Gorsage, CDOT state avalanche program coordinator witnesses the successful test mission of the newly installed remotecontrolled avalanche systems.