CDOT working on a temporary bridge to cover sinkhole near Paonia

Not expected until end of June

By Katherine Nettles

The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) and local officials are still navigating a large sinkhole and culvert damage north of Paonia that has caused a safety closure of Highway 133 in both directions for the past two weeks. Mitigation measures may include a temporary bridge to be installed toward the end of June which will allow the highway to reopen to through traffic and improve Gunnison County’s connectivity to Glenwood Springs and Interstate 70.

According to a news release on Monday, “CDOT is pursuing temporary ways of safely reopening the roadway, but those options will be limited due to ongoing spring runoff and nearby terrain.” CDOT also hosted a site visit to the area on Monday that Gunnison County commissioner Liz Smith attended and saw firsthand what is happening there. She reported during the commissioners meeting on Tuesday, May 16, that the sinkhole had grown and a second one, about one foot in diameter but 20 feet deep, had formed nearby. 

She also shared some information about CDOT’s plans to address the situation this summer. 

 “I will say that from the original photos we saw, that sinkhole has increased significantly,” she said. “But for now it is stable and they are keeping an eye on it 24/7.”

Smith shared what CDOT officials had explained at the site about how the situation started when high water flows and debris had dislodged a joint in the culvert, eroding it internally. The initial collapse on the east side of the highway has grown across the entire roadway, she added.

CDOT has also discussed their plans for developing a temporary bridge using their own internal resources to cover the damaged area, and in the meantime has also gained access to a private road for around 180 residents in the area to use for access in and out of their homes. 

The temporary bridge is expected to be delivered by June 28. 

The highway is closed in both directions from mile points 14-19, and CDOT has asked motorists to avoid the area unless absolutely necessary. 

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