June 1, 2020
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Idaho Transportation Department crews finished removing tons of rock, dirt, and snow from Idaho Highway 21 one week after a record 6.5 magnitude earthquake struck the state.

[Above photo by the ITD.]

The agency said the earthquake triggered several avalanches and landslides in Canyon Creek, an 11-mile corridor west of Stanley. Large boulders shaken loose dropped hundreds of feet to the highway, while aftershocks and the threat of additional landslides kept crews out of the area until April 5.

Photo by ITD

“The earthquake was the second-largest on record in Idaho,” said Bill Nicholson, who leads the ITD’s avalanche crew in Lowman, in a statement. “I’ve been here thirteen years and never seen so much rock and earth hit the highway.”

ITD maintenance crews from Lowman and Stanley attacked the clean-up from both sides and, in just four days, they removed the debris and patched up the road before re-opening the highway to traffic.

“The community of Stanley sees Highway 21 as an important connection,” said Brad Lynch, ITD’s Stanley shed foreman. “It’s the most direct route to Boise and the Treasure Valley. During this pandemic, it was a concern having the route closed. I know my neighbors will breathe easier knowing we punched through and opened it up.”

In total, operators removed an estimated 2,000 cubic yards of debris from the highway. Several boulders provide too large to be removed, forcing crews to use a “Boulder Buster” to break them down into a more manageable size.

editor@aashto.org

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