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U.S. 50 west of Gunnison closed indefinitely due to defects in bridge at Blue Mesa Reservoir

Members of the Sedler family and friends taking a boat home from school in Gunnison to Cimarron following Thursday's closure of I-80 at Blue Mesa Reservoir.
courtesy of Dani Sedler
Members of the Sedler family and friends taking a boat from school in Gunnison to their home in Cimarron following Thursday's closure of U.S. 50 at Blue Mesa Reservoir.

A major road connecting Gunnison and Montrose has been closed indefinitely over safety concerns.

On Thursday afternoon, the Colorado Department of Transportation closed parts of U.S. 50 after cracks were found in a bridge over Blue Mesa Reservoir.

Colorado Department of Transportation Director Shoshana Lew said the defects were identified during a federally-required inspection of the two bridges along the Blue Mesa Reservoir.

"CDOT has been conducting a special inspection for high-strength steel bridges, specifically for the two bridges along the Blue Mesa Reservoir, as required by the Federal Highway Administration. This inspection was required because of known issues with similarly constructed bridges elsewhere in the country," said Lew during a media briefing on Friday morning.

"A defect was observed during an early investigation of the bridge, and we immediately brought in a second inspection crew with specialized resources to perform another method for testing to determine whether the defect posed a safety hazard on the bridge. It was during this inspection that we confirmed the need to close the segment of U.S. 50."

Drivers are facing detours of several hours due to the closure of part of U.S. 50.
courtesy of Colorado Department of Transportation
Drivers are facing detours of several hours due to the closure of part of U.S. 50.

Road users are now facing a detour through I-70 or U.S. 160, which would add between 6 and 7 hours to a journey.

Dani Sedler, the general manager of the Arrowhead Mountain Lodge in Cimarron, said their children were stuck in Gunnison Thursday afternoon following the closure.

They traveled by boat to get home.

"We actually have three families, including myself, that have kids that go to Gunnison school. So yesterday they were stuck in Gunnison, we had no access to our kids. The school suggested us going around to Durango and back up to get to our kids. Luckily we do have a Forest Service resident that was here in our community and he gathered and he was able to get a boat for all the kids to get on the boat  and then to the marina closest to us to be able to get all of our kids home," said Sedler.

Sedler said they're concerned about the lasting impacts of the closure on their lodging business, particularly when it comes to delivery services.

"We don't have a food company that delivers, you know, for our restaurant, so all of our food that we ordered to make the business work. We meet the truck driver down in Gunnison to pick up our food order and then drive it back. So that's every Friday. So we would have to change our ordering on all levels. pretty much liquor, food, supplies," she said.

There is currently no timetable for the bridge repairs.

Copyright 2024 KBUT.

That story was shared with us via Rocky Mountain Community Radio, a network of public media stations in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico.

Kate Gienapp is the News Director at KBUT in Crested Butte. She joined KBUT as a Morning Edition host and reporter after working as a reporter and photographer for the local weekly paper, the Gunnison Country Times. Her work has also been published in the Gunnison Magazine and the Montrose Daily Press. She’s covered everything from local politics, public lands to arts and culture. Her favorite thing is listening to people tell her about what they love. When she’s not in the studio you can find her cross-country skiing with her dog Pippin.