By Michael Abeyta

LOVELAND, Colo. (CBS4)– After nearly five years of intermittent closures since the September 2013 floods, Highway 34 from Loveland to Estes Park completely reopened on Thursday.

LeAnn Beavers owns Beavers Den Leather in Loveland on Highway 34.

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A few months ago, she was afraid she might have to close her business because the road through the canyon that leads to her front door had been closed for road repairs since the Big Thompson River flooded in 2013.

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In January, she told CBS4’s Michael Abeyta, “I am getting ready to trade in my change just to keep the electric on.”

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After hanging tough, she’s excited and optimistic for the 2018 tourist season because the Colorado Department of Transportation is finally opening Highway 34 from Loveland to Estes Park– for good.

“They’ve been taking away a lot of the construction stuff and I have noticed some more traffic,” says Beavers. “I am so excited! I’ve been counting the weeks and the months and the days down.”

Residents were given passes to utilize the highway during the closure.

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CDOT said closing the highway for five years not only helped save money, but also made the passage safe. At one point, the highway was destructed down to the width of an ATV.

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CDOT said the nearly $300 million construction project should help improve the environment, social gains and the economy along the highway. They also said the improvements would help lower emergency response times and costs in any future floods.

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Even though fall and spring are her busiest times, Beavers hopes now that the highway is open, more traffic in the canyon will mean more money spent at her shop this summer.

For the first time in a long time, Beavers can breathe a sigh of relief.

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“I’m smiling today. I’m happy today. You know, we’re not moving. We’re not closing. We’re going to do this.”

Even though CDOT says there will be no more major closures on the highway, they also say there is still some work that needs to be completed. So if you head up here, be prepared for some possible traffic delays.

Michael Abeyta is a 4th generation Coloradan and a Multimedia Journalist for CBS4. His stories can be seen on CBS4 News at 5 & 6. He is on Twitter! Follow him @AbeytaCBS4.

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