ESTES PARK, Colo. (CBS4)– The Colorado Department of Transportation will continue construction in the Big Thompson Canyon by closing U.S. Highway 34 until just prior to Memorial Day of next year.
Repair work from the September 2013 flood is halfway complete. That means until next year, drivers cannot use the highway to visit Estes Park or 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.
The highway will remain closed in the canyon from just east of mile marker 66, just east of Mall Road, to mile marker 83, the Dam Store.
As work progresses, sections of the road will be reopened, which will provide more access to canyon residents.
Canyon residents headed to Estes Park will need to use County Road 43, and all others without permits (including oversized vehicles) will need to use the US 36 detour.
Roads and bridges were heavily damaged during the 2013 floods and decades before that in the 1976 floods.
CDOT studied the hydraulic flow of the river, considering safety improvements and options to prevent and protect against future floods.
The highway reopened for the busy tourist season in Colorado, but was always slated to close again for another extended period.
All drivers can plan to access the canyon on Thanksgiving, Thursday, Nov. 23, and again from Saturday, Dec. 23, until Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2018. Pilot cars will direct traffic through the work areas, but permits will not be necessary.
CDOT says a significant amount of road and river work remains undone. This closure will continue through May 2018. Project completion is scheduled for December 2018.