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Giant roadside rock to remain on Colorado mountain highway as landmark

By Jean Lotus
Giant roadside rock to remain on Colorado mountain highway as landmark
A 8.5-million- pound boulder that demolished a Colorado mountain highway May 24 will stay in place and the road will be rebuilt around it, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said. Photo courtesy of Colorado Department of Transportation

DENVER, June 5 (UPI) -- Colorado has a new Instagram-worthy landmark. An 8.5-million-pound boulder that rolled off a cliff and demolished a section of mountain highway has been renamed "Memorial Rock," Gov. Jared Polis said.

It would have cost the Colorado Department of Transportation $200,000 to blow up the boulder with dynamite and haul it away, but instead the department will rebuild Highway 145 to wind around the giant rock described as "the size of a house" between Cortez and Telluride in southwestern Colorado, Polis said.

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"We expect that for generations to come, people will have the opportunity to observe this geological masterpiece that we're calling Memorial Rock," Polis said at a news conference earlier this week.

As part of a rock slide, two giant boulders tumbled about 2,000 feet from a mountain ledge onto the highway at the start of Memorial Day weekend. Transportation officials destroyed the smaller 2.3-million-pound rock with explosives.

The enormous boulder rock blocked traffic and closed down the highway. A local restaurant had to cancel their long-awaited Memorial Day motorcycle ride.

"There's a huge avalanche-size scar down the side of the mountain," said Brandy Randall, co-owner of the Enterprise Bar and Grill up the canyon from the rock in Rico, Colorado.

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"Our maintenance guy was stuck in [the neighboring town of] Dolores for five days," said Rico's Town Manager Kari Distefano.

The highway will be widened with additional shoulder and a new guardrail will be installed near the rock, Lisa Schwantes, the transportation department's southwest Colorado spokeswoman, told UPI.

Fixing the two-lane highway will cost about $1.3 million, Polis said, but most of that money will come from emergency funds from the Federal Highway Administration.

"We lost a ton of business, but we hope people come back up later this summer," Randall said. "We were told the highway would be fixed by the Fourth of July."

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