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Stretch of U.S. 50 shut down due to concerns on Blue Mesa bridge over reservoir in Gunnison County

Highway 50 over Blue Mesa Reservoir closed
Highway 50 over Blue Mesa Reservoir closed 00:32

A stretch of U.S. 50 was shut down on Thursday evening due to cracking in the bridge that runs over Blue Mesa Reservoir in Gunnison County, the Colorado Department of Transportation confirmed in a press release. 

According to CDOT, at the behest of the Federal Highway Administration, CDOT shut down the bridge due to concerns for bridge safety.

FHA and state bridge engineering experts made this directive following an ongoing safety inspection that found anomalies in the bridge on Thursday. 

The bridge closure is located between Gunnison and Montrose -- from U.S. 50 Mile Point 131 (intersection with Colorado Highway 92) to MP 138. It is located east of the U.S. 50 Little Blue Creek Canyon project, which is currently in a planned winter shutdown.  

Localized traffic was allowed through the closure in order to get home. 

The day's inspection was the second one conducted on the bridge after a defect was observed during an early investigation of the bridge near Mile Point 136.3. 

CDOT has been conducting a special inspection for high-strength steel bridges for the Blue Mesa bridges as required by the FHA. This inspection was required because of known issues with similarly constructed bridges elsewhere in the country.

There was no time frame for when temporary or permanent fixes were expected for this bridge over the reservoir.  

Drivers can learn more information about all major traffic conditions whether due to a crash, construction or forced closure on CDOT's interactive map

CDOT says there are now two recommended detours for travel through I-70 to the north or US 160 to the south and these detours add six to eight hours of travel time. The agency is also coordinating with emergency service providers to ensure emergency response is unaffected.

CDOT Recommended Alternate Routes

This closure will create a significant detour for commuters between Montrose and Gunnison. The recommended detour route for through traffic is via Interstate 70 to the north or US 160 to the south. CDOT understands the inconvenience that this creates and is rapidly evaluating options to improve options for residents, businesses, and travelers on the western slope. The northern route is 354 miles and requires approximately 6 hours of travel time. The southern route is 331 miles and requires nearly 7 hours of travel time. CDOT and local partners are exploring whether it is feasible at this point in the season to clear local seasonal routes that may be able to significantly reduce the detour time for local travelers. 

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