Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Which bridges are being replaced?

A. There are two bridges on US 34 being replaced. One is located about 1.4 miles east of the Estes Park city limit sign and the other is located about 2.1 miles east of the city limit sign.  They are located at approximately mile markers 65.5 and 66.2.   Both bridges span the Big Thompson River.


Q. Why are the bridges being replaced?

A. Both bridges were built in 1937 and have outlived their useful life.  They do not meet current standards and are rated in poor condition.  Emergency repairs were made on both bridges in 2008 to keep them in operation. The bridges are being inspected regularly to assure that they remain in a safe condition until they can be replaced.


Q. How will this project impact traffic?

A. Between October 2009 and the end of January, lane closures can generally be expected Monday through Friday during daylight hours.  As required for construction, there will be single-lane, alternating traffic on US 34 at both bridges.  Flaggers will be used to direct traffic.  Drivers should anticipate short delays up to 10 minutes.

Between early February and late March, there will be two full closures of US 34 for approximately 12 days each time.  During the closures, traffic will be routed on posted detours.

Following the closures, the new bridges will be opened to traffic.  Crews will still be working on the project until the middle of May.  During this time, as required for construction, there will again be single-lane closures with flaggers Monday through Friday.  Short delays can be expected.


Q. When will US 34 be closed and for how long?

A. The full closures are currently scheduled for February 3st-14th and and March 1st - 12th. The dates for the complete closures may shift due to adverse weather or work considerations. Icy and snow-packed conditions prior to the closure may delay the start of the closure. Check the project Web site or call the project hotline number for the latest closure information.  


Q. What is the detour route during the closure of US 34?

A. During the closure of US 34, traffic will be detoured through Lyons using US 287, SH 66, and US 36.  Extensive signing will be placed on US 34, I-25, US 287 and along the detour route to direct as much traffic as possible to the detour. Click here for a detour route map.


Q. How many miles and how much time will the detour add to a trip between Estes Park and Loveland?

A. Between the US 34/US 287 intersection in Loveland and the US 34/US 36 intersection in Estes Park, the detour will add approximately 16 miles and the travel time will increase approximately 23 minutes.   This detour uses US 287, SH 66 and US 36.

Between the US 34/I-25 Interchange and the US 34/US 36 intersection in Estes Park, the detour will add approximately 17 miles and travel time will increase approximately 19 minutes.  This detour uses I-25, SH 66 and US 36.

These distances and travel times were obtained using GoogleTM maps.


Q. Are other routes available to get to Estes Park other than the US 36 detour?

A. Alternate routes on local or county roads may be available, but are not recommended.   These roads have lower speed limits, no shoulders, and are more winding with switchbacks and much steeper grades.  They do not receive the same level of maintenance as highways on the state system.   They are not plowed at night, are shaded and often icy and snow packed.  Chains or adequate snow times may be required at any time.

Larimer County Road 43 (Glen Haven Road) will not accommodate vehicles over 40 feet in length due to steep grades and switchbacks.


Q. US 34 has not been closed for other recent bridge replacement projects.  How come US 34 needs to be closed for this project?

A. On other bridge replacement projects in the Big Thompson Canyon, CDOT has been able to keep one lane open for traffic throughout the construction by either building a detour around the site or by running traffic over half of the old bridge while half of the new bridge is built.  Neither of these are options on this project.

The truss bridges cannot be cut in half lengthwise and still carry traffic.  Once one of the trusses is removed, the bridge loses its structural integrity.

In addition, this project has very limited work space.  There is no room for a detour to be built around the site.  To make room for a detour, homes and/or businesses would need to be removed, some of which are considered historic.


Q. Why can't both bridges be replaced during one closure?

A. The bridges are a little over a half mile apart.  Ideally, both would be removed and replaced during one 12-day closure.  However, there are several dozen houses and a few businesses located between the two bridges.  If both of the old bridges were out at the same time, property owners and emergency responders would not be able get to these homes and businesses.


Q. What if there is an emergency in the Big Thompson Canyon during the road closure?

A. If you have an emergency in the canyon during one of the closures, call 911 as you normally would and give the dispatcher your address or location.  The dispatcher will know which side of the closure you are on and emergency vehicles will respond accordingly.


Q. What about... emergency vehicles? buses?  ...mail delivery?  What will they do during the closure?

A. Emergency responders, the school district, the US Postal Service, the Town of Estes Park, and other services providers are all aware of and prepared for the closures.  If you would like specific details on how they will deal with the closure, please call the agency or service provider directly.


Q. I need to go to a business or a home located between Drake and Estes Park.  Will I still be able to get there?  How will I know which side of the closure I need to be on?

A. While the bridges are out and the road is closed, local traffic will still be permitted past Drake and past Estes Park to get to any business or home in the upper part of the Big Thompson Canyon.  The highway will only be closed near the bridge site.  The best way to determine which side you need to approach from is to call the business or resident and ask which side of the closure they are on.  If you know the address of your destination, click here to see a map of the closure to determine which side of the closure they are on.


Q. Why are the bridges being replaced in the winter?

A. Traffic volumes on US 34 in the Big Thompson Canyon are much lower in the winter.  Doing this work in the winter reduces the overall impact to traffic.  In addition, the schedule will allow the project to be complete by Memorial Day before tourist season begins.


Q. How can a bridge be built in 12 days?

A. The contractor will use a "fast track" method of construction.  The contractor will do as much work as possible while the highway is still open to traffic.  Once US 34 is closed, the contractor will work around the clock to remove the old bridges and build the new ones by installing girders and the bridge deck.  Portions of the new bridges will be pre-cast to speed up the construction.


Q. What hours will the contractor work during the closure?

A. During the first seven days of the closure, crews will be demolishing the existing bridge, installing girders and the bridge deck.  During this time, crews will work 24 hours a day.  Once the bridge deck is placed, crews will only work during the day as the concrete of the bridge deck needs time to cure.


Q. What happens if the contractor takes longer than 12 days?

A. The contractor is allowed 12 days for each closure.  If US 34 is not open to traffic by the end of the 12th day, the contractor will be charged $15,000 for every additional day until the highway is opened.  If the contractor is able to open the highway to traffic in less than  12 days, they will get an incentive of $15,000 for each day.


Q. What if inclement weather hits during the full closures? Will US 34 remain closed even if crews can't work?

A. Once US 34 is closed and the old bridge is removed, the highway must remain closed until traffic can be placed on the new bridge.  Generally, unless the weather is extreme, the contractor will still be able to work, even during periods of very cold temperatures.  However, some construction activities cannot take place when it is snowing.  Placing the concrete for the bridge deck is one such activity.  Heavy snow during certain parts of the closure could delay the opening of the highway.


Q. What is going to happen with the old trusses?

A. The old truss bridges are designated as historic.  They are some of the last bridges of this type remaining on the state highway system and the last in the Big Thompson Canyon.  The Town of Estes Park is "adopting" the bridges to incorporate them into their trail system.  The contractor will sand blast the trusses to remove the old paint, prime them and then deliver them to a Town of Estes park facility.


Q. What work remains to be completed after the two closures?

A. During each 12-day closures, the majority of the work for this project will be completed; however, crews will still have a couple of months of work remaining.  Between the middle of March and the middle of May, crews will install the remaining drainage structures that are outside of the roadway and pave the roadway in asphalt.  The paving cannot take place until warmer temperatures return. Other minor work includes staining the concrete on the new bridges and installing the guardrail. During the last two months of construction, motorists can expect single-lane alternating traffic during daytime hours, Monday through Friday.


Q. When will the project be complete?

A. The project is scheduled to be complete by Memorial Day 2010.