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Coal Creek Canyon Residents Frustrated By Continuing Closures

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JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – Monday’s opening of Highway 36 from Lyons to Estes Park following flood repairs was welcome news to many, but it has some Jefferson County residents feeling like officials are playing favorites with the priorities for the recovery.

Parts after Highway 72 in Coal Creek Canyon remain closed after the floods washed away large portions of the road, and some residents like Travis Henry say they are losing patience.

Since the flooding in September the closures have forced Henry to drive as much as an hour out of his way to get where he needs to go.

“I’ve had new brakes installed on two different vehicles already,” Henry said.

Road repair work in Coal Creek Canyon

Road repair work in Coal Creek Canyon on Monday (credit: CBS)

On Monday the Colorado State Patrol escorted a CBS4 crew several miles up a stretch the closed roadway to view the destruction. It’s clear that there’s progress being made, but for Henry and some of his neighbors, it’s just not being accomplished soon enough.

“We’re frustrated they haven’t gotten it done yet. I could have done it myself by now,” he said.

Henry said he thinks the businesses and the tourism dollars were a factor in getting Highway 36 open a month ahead of schedule.

“It’s all about the money and what people are making. I think we’re a low priority,” he said.

CDOT spokeswoman Amy Ford told CBS4 that’s not true. She says crews are working around the clock in the canyon, and that the damage and logistical problems there are a real challenge.

“For State Highway 72, we continue to have the damage that we had in other corridors, but we also have a lot of utility coordination, coordination with private property owners and the like, so it does require some time and we are certainly working as quickly as we can,” Ford said.

Ford said the road will fully reopen before Gov. John Hickenlooper’s stated Dec. 1 deadline, possibly by the middle of November.

With the deadline and winter fast approaching, Gwen Burak, another resident, said she hopes it gets done soon.

“Once we’re into December and January up here there’s just so much snow. I can’t imagine they’re going to have a lot of luck getting it done then,” Burak said.

Highway 34 in the Big Thompson Canyon — the canyon that suffered some of the most extensive flooding damage — still remains closed from Estes Park to Loveland.

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