LARIMER COUNTY—At 4 p.m. on Thursday, May 24, CDOT will reopen US 34 through the Big Thompson Canyon between Loveland and Estes Park to all traffic, marking the end of all long-term closures on a highway that has undergone major reconstruction since July 2016.
CDOT and Kiewit Infrastructure Co. have worked since October 2017 to reopen the canyon and shave 18 months off the construction schedule.
"A tremendous amount of work has been put in to make this opening before Memorial Day happen. This project has affected so many people in different ways, especially the residents of the Big Thompson Canyon. To all who have been impacted by this project, no matter how big or small, thank you for your patience and for working with the project team!" said James Usher, CDOT project director.
"As the highway opens this coming week, my hope is that everyone can let out a big sigh of relief knowing that not only the highway/river system is now much stronger but that the canyon community and the communities the canyon connects are stronger as well," Usher added.
Since closing the canyon in early October, Kiewit has installed 95,000 cubic yards of rock to help armor the roadway from flooding erosion. Twenty-thousand linear feet of river improvements have been installed, as well as 4,000 linear feet of new drainage pipe. Crews also completed the Horseshoe Bridge structures (near mile point 78) east of Drake, where the roadway is being realigned to cut through the mountain further away from the river.
Ultimately, this project will minimize the impacts of a future flood by maximizing protected emergency routes to allow for canyon travelers and residents to get out, and for emergency responders to get in.
Although the heavy lifting is complete, the final touches still need to be completed throughout the corridor. Construction activities will continue in the canyon this summer and throughout the fall. Drivers could encounter up to 20-minute delays this summer for paving operations.
During the summer, there will be limited, nighttime closures of the road to allow bridge girders to be set for four new access bridges.
US 34 Big Thompson Canyon's roads and bridges were heavily damaged during the 2013 floods, with many homes damaged and over 100 airlifted evacuations. The canyon and its residents also suffered from flooding in 1976. As a result of these two events, CDOT studied the hydraulic flow of the river in the canyon and its impact on the road and bridges along its path while looking for safety improvements and resiliency solutions to prevent/protect against future flood events.