The Red Mountain Electrical Reliability and Broadband Improvement Project

The electrical transmission power line that traverses the beautiful and treacherous Red Mountain Pass along US 550, needs to be re-built in order to continue to serve as backup power source for consumers in the communities of Ridgway and Ouray.

"Red Mountain Graphic"Originally constructed in 1928, the Red Mountain line has been maintained, repaired and upgraded many times, but has reached its functional end-of-life.  A new line, engineered with current technologies and design practices will be safer and more practical to maintain in the difficult mountain terrain.



Scheduling / Permitting:

  • United States Forest Service (USFS) Permit approved; working closely with USFS throughout construction.
  • CDOT Permit nearly finalized.
  • Goal: for the Idarado – Red Mtn line section to be de-energized in June
  • Material delivery/Contractor mobilization underway
  • No work on weekends and holidays

USFS Hiking / Camping Areas:

  • St. Germaine closure order will be for the entire construction period.
  • Work in Corkscrew area expected to begin in early-to-mid June
  • Ironton closure order expected in late July
  • Richmond Trail open with personnel onsite during work hours to briefly stop hikers until it is safe to pass


  • Materials being delivered to Idarado and St. Germaine yard
  • Enclosed semi-trailer on site
  • Signs posted on either side - Hikers, steer clear of area.


Project Timeline - Beginning Phase II


The project is being conducted in several phases. This construction approach offers a number of benefits:

  1. It respects the construction period which is limited by weather, terrain and USFS environmental restrictions.
  2. It spreads the upfront construction cost of the entire project over several years to minimize the impact to SMPA members
  3. It allows for the extended material lead times that have affected the industry since the global pandemic.
  4. It allows SMPA to begin capitalizing the cost of the re-build by constructing the flattest section first.
  5. It minimizes the impacts of temporary traffic stops on the connected communities of Ouray and Silverton.

Project Phase Descriptions

In 2022 and 2023, SMPA worked closely with U.S. Forest Service (USFS) representatives, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), and stakeholders in neighboring communities, in order to conduct vegetation removal above US Highway 550. This served to mitigate fire risk in the area and it cleared the work zone for re-build operations.  Thanks to contractor, VM West, for a job well done.

Timber Processers at work

Vegetation Removal by Helicopter Lift

At their September, 2023 meeting, the SMPA Board of Directors approved a staff proposal to begin Phase 2, which is the re-construction of 4.5 miles of 44kV transmission line between the Idarado and Red Mountain electrical substations. The work will include the replacement of existing line / structures with new, environmentally-tailored structures that will also be fewer in number.

Reconstruction of Red Mountain line section 1, from Ouray to the Red Mountain Substation is tentatively scheduled to take place in the summer of 2025.

Reconstruction of Red Mountain line section 3, from Idarado substation to Burro Bridge Substation is tentatively scheduled to take place in the summer of 2026.