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Demolition Crews Postpone Plan To Blast Interstate 35 Rockslide Site In Murray County

Oklahoma Department of Transportation

Updated 4:37 p.m.: ?Severe thunderstorms delayed Tuesday's scheduled blasting work at the site of the rockslide along Interstate 35 in south central Oklahoma.

No new date has been set for the demolition work, but ODOT plans to issue an advisory ahead of the project since it will require the closure of all lanes of I-35 near Turner Falls.

Original Post

If the weather cooperates, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation plans to set off explosives Tuesday evening in order to prevent more rockslides along Interstate 35 in the Arbuckle Mountains.

Several thousand tons of rock fell on the stretch of highway between mile markers 47 and 51 during last month’s heavy rainfall caused by Tropical Depression Bill’s remnants. Motorists were injured by debris falling from the rock face on the eastern side of the highway’s northbound lanes near Turner Falls.

ODOT engineers and demolitions experts plan to place a small charge on the rock slide, forcing what unstable rock is left on the cliff to fall to the ground after the 6 p.m. detonation.

Colorado-based GeoStabilization International received an $870,000 contract to stabilize the rock formation. They plan to remove the unstable rock through blasting, machinery, and hand tools. They’ll then place rock bolts through the formation. Oklahoma-based Silver Star Construction received a $574,000 contract to haul away roughly 14,000 tons of debris.

To prevent any further movement, ODOT plans to place markers on the face of the cliff so crews can monitor the visual references over time and keep track of any additional movement.

Since the June 18 collapse, I-35 has been narrowed to one lane in each direction, with northbound traffic diverted to the southbound side. Traffic has been backed up for miles, with delays ranging from just a few minutes to several hours, depending on the day, time, and traffic volume.

During Tuesday’s blast, I-35 will be completely blocked in both directions while the detonation takes place, and as debris is removed from the site, according to The Oklahoman’s Randy Ellis:

Bob Rose, field division engineer, said steps are being taken to try to minimize delays. The actual blast and removal of the loosened rock is expected to take 20-30 minutes, Rose said. Law enforcement officers will set up rolling road blocks about 10 miles from either side of the blast site and slowly drive toward the work site to keep vehicles from having to spend as much time at a dead halt on the interstate, he said. Experts have told state transportation officials there is a 35 percent chance only one blast will be needed, Rose said. There are other methods that could potentially be used for additional rock removal, including inflating air bags between crevices in rocks to jar them loose or dragging a giant steel bucket down the face of the rock surface, Rose said.

ODOT says drivers who want to avoid I-35 congestion should take either U.S. 81 south through Chickasha, Duncan and Bowie, Texas, or U.S. 69 through Durant and Sherman, Texas.

Lane closures are expected to last for several more months.

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Brian Hardzinski is from Flower Mound, Texas and a graduate of the University of Oklahoma. He began his career at KGOU as a student intern, joining KGOU full time in 2009 as Operations and Public Service Announcement Director. He began regularly hosting Morning Edition in 2014, and became the station's first Digital News Editor in 2015-16. Brian’s work at KGOU has been honored by Public Radio News Directors Incorporated (PRNDI), the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters, the Oklahoma Associated Press Broadcasters, and local and regional chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists. Brian enjoys competing in triathlons, distance running, playing tennis, and entertaining his rambunctious Boston Terrier, Bucky.
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