ESTES PARK, Colo. (CBS4)– The Colorado Department of Transportation is hoping to make travel better for visitors to Colorado this summer. Staring Thursday afternoon, U.S. Highway 34 through the Big Thompson Canyon will reopen to all traffic.
Repair work from the September 2013 flood is halfway complete. That means until October, drivers can use the highway to visit Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park.
Crews have been working the stretch of highway between Loveland and Estes Park since October 2016. They’ve blasted and hauled rock in the Big Thompson Canyon totaling an amount that would fit in nearly 20,000 concrete mixer trucks.
“We cut right here so we can move the roadway over, get it on bedrock because we lost about a mile and a half of roadway in here,” said CDOT Region Four Transportation Director Johnny Olson.
Roads and bridges were heavily damaged during the 2013 floods and decades before that in the 1976 floods.
“So we want to try to maintain emergency access and allow people to get in and out of this canyon,” said Olson.
CDOT studied the hydraulic flow of the river, considering safety improvements and options to prevent and protect against future floods.
“We all know how Mother Nature is,” said Olson.
The highway will reopen for the busy tourist season in Colorado, but will close again this fall for another extended period.
“We want to make sure we’re open all Summer long during the tourist season and then in October, come back and do another closure. Get in, get out so there’s not as much disruption to the traveling public and the businesses,” said Olson.
CDOT says a significant amount of road and river work remains undone. The next closure will begin in October and continue through May 2018. Project completion is scheduled for December 2018.