From the Estes Park Trail-Gazette (David Persons):
In spite of what has been reported recently about the work which will likely start in late spring or early summer and last for two years or more, CDOT officials say there are just too many moving parts to say with any certainty just how long the $129 million project will take and how it will impact area residents and businesses.
“We honestly do not know a lot of these answers as the team is working to determine a lot of these variables,” said Jared Fiel, CDOT’s Communication Manager for Region 4. “The big thing to realize is that we have extensive outreach planned for the entire corridor in advance of any of the work starting.
“We will be having public meetings with both residents and businesses as well as a telephone town hall format for users of the corridor such as part-time residents, commuters, etc.”
When asked about the two-year construction time frame, Fiel said it will probably be two years.
“We are working at determining the actual scope and extent of the work to be done,” Fiel said. “Some of our early estimates for some aspects of the job proved to be too low, mainly based on logistics, meaning (as an example) if we are blasting rock in one place, we need to have a location on the corridor that needs that aggregate so we don’t have to pay more to have it shipped out, only to be brought back in later.”
Some have reported that the project will be done in stages.
“Again, probably,” Fiel said. “With the size and extent of this work, we will probably need to do different stages. How those stages (or construction packages) work, when they will happen, and if there will be overlap, are all to be determined.”
One thing that will almost definitely occur is the rerouting of Front Range (Fort Collins and Loveland) traffic to U.S. Highway 36 in Lyons as the major route to Estes Park, adding an extra half-hour of driving time.
“When construction begins in earnest, that is probably going to be a good idea,” Fiel said. “We will have detours available when (and if) we need to do any road or lane closures. We will also communicate this far in advance of any work going on.”
The section of U.S. 34 from Loveland to Estes Park, that winds through the narrows of the Big Thompson Canyon and past several smaller communities like Drake, was heavily damaged by the September 2013 flood event.
During the flooding, watershed runoff combined with flows released from Lake Estes Dam, and surges from debris dam breaches, produced huge flow surges that exceeded a 500-year flood event. As a result, the canyon section sustained widespread, massive damage.
Major sections of roadway were washed away completely, along with access bridges and retaining walls. In the narrows, much of the roadway and grade were undermined, washing out the pavement from below and exposing the wall support structures.
Temporary repairs were completed and the highway was reopened to traffic in both directions on Thursday, November 11, 2013. CDOT and its contractors worked from both the east and west ends of the canyon to assess and repair the damage and restore local access as quickly as possible. Emergency repairs were extensive and included removing debris, re-establishing shoulders and embankments, replacing damaged asphalt, filling washed out sections with concrete fill, repairing local access structures, and repairing damaged drainage structures.
After a couple years of doing research and design work, CDOT is ramping up for the permanent repair and/or rebuilt of U.S. 34. CDOT has named Kiewit Infrastructure Co. to serve as the Construction Manager/General Contractor (CM/GC) for this project.
Permanent repairs will include removing and replacing much of the temporary asphalt, embankment fill, and temporary channel protection; as well as re-vegetating, replacing guardrails, and repairing fencing. Some of the roadway sections that were not destroyed, but experienced flood water overtopping the roadway, will be analyzed and possibly replaced, according to information on CDOT’s website.
For more information about the project and updates, go online to http://www.codot.gov/projects/floodrelatedprojects/us-34-big-thompson-canyon-1.