After a day of steady rain on January 21, the mountain pass between Globe and Superior let loose a large cascade of rocks and boulders that tumbled onto Highway 60. Rock slides are common in this pass after a soaking rain, but this one brought with it a boulder the size of a mid-size car. It occurred around 4 p m. as shift workers at the Pinto Valley Mine (Capstone) began to head home.
Traffic backed up for a mile or more on both sides of the rock slide.
ADOT was on the scene quickly with two loaders and a crew, but the size of the largest boulders meant they would have to break them apart with rock hammers before their loaders could handle them, according to Kurt Harris, District Assistant Engineer with ADOT.
As fortune would have it, a Pinto Valley Mine supervisor, Mark Chism, was stuck in traffic near the front of the line and could see the challenge that ADOT faced. He asked if they could use some help and said he thought the mine might just have the equipment needed. He called up to the mine and reached Colleen Roche, Operations Support Manager for Pinto Valley Mine, who happened to be on the phone with their insurance representative in Vancouver. It was a fortunate coincidence.
“We wanted to help,” Roche says, adding that it was simply a matter of working out the liability issues. “All we wanted is for ADOT to confirm that if we caused damage unintentionally, we would not be held liable,” Roche said. ” They [ADOT] were super cooperative and within an hour of getting that call, we had everything we needed to send our crew out to help.”
The response from those on the ground could be summed up by one crew member who, upon arrival of the 992, said, “Thank God you guys are here. We thought we’d be here all night.”
To get a feel for the size difference between the mine’s loader and the ones ADOT was using, Harris explained that one of the ADOT loaders could fit into the bucket of the 992.
He added the smaller ADOT loaders might handle up to two tons, and estimated the 992 loader was capable of nearly 30 tons.
With that kind of muscle, the mine crew made quick work of clearing the largest boulder, picking it up and tossing it over the side, and then helping to clear the entire road. By 9 p.m. traffic was again flowing in both directions.
“The mine has been tremendous to work with,” Harris said, adding ” it could have been a very long night if the mine had not stepped in to help.
According to ADOT, blasting for the Highway 60 relocation is now complete.
There will continue to be flaggers and lane restrictions. Travelers are encouraged to get project updates and traffic alerts by email or follow ADOT on Twitter (@ArizonaDOT). They can also stay informed on road conditions through www.az511.gov.
Writer, photographer. Passionate foodie, lover of good books and storytelling. Lives in Globe. Plays in the historic district. Travels when possible.