US 34 Big Thompson Canyon
US 34 will be open to through traffic in both directions throughout the summer. But when construction work begins in July between mile points 77 and 80 (from just east of Drake to the Cedar Cove area), there will be short-duration lane closures and traffic stops for rock-blasting operations.
October 2016 - early June 2017:
Travel on this stretch of highway will be limited to canyon residents, and emergency and essential vehicles and crews perform major rock-blasting and construction work.
This plan balances the comments we heard from canyon residents about needing to commute to work and the concerns of canyon business owners about losing customers with the need to do this high-impact work in the safest, most expedited manner.
Flood Impact Analysis
US 34 Big Thompson Canyon was heavily damaged during the 2013 floods, with many homes damaged and over 100 air-lifted evacuations. The canyon and its residents also suffered from flooding in 1976. As a result of these two events, CDOT has been studying the hydraulic flow of the river in the canyon, and its impact on the road and bridges along its path. CDOT also is looking for safety improvements and resiliency solutions to prevent and protect against significant damage from future flood events.
This section US 34 winds its way through the Big Thompson Canyon, providing major access between Loveland, Lyons, and Estes Park. During the flooding, watershed runoff combined with flows released from Lake Estes Dam and surges from debris dam breaches to produce huge flow surges that exceeded the 500–year flood event. The canyon section sustained widespread, massive damage. Major sections of roadway were washed away completely, along with access bridges and retaining walls. In the narrows, much of the roadway and grade were undermined, washing out the pavement from below and exposing the wall support structures.
Emergency (Temporary) Repairs
Temporary repairs were completed and the highway was reopened to traffic in both directions on Thursday, Nov. 11, 2013. CDOT and its contractors worked from both the east and west ends of the canyon to assess and repair the damage and restore local access as quickly as possible. Emergency repairs were extensive and included removing debris, re-establishing shoulders and embankments, replacing damaged asphalt, filling washed out sections with concrete fill, repairing local access structures, and repairing damaged drainage structures.
Permanent (Long-Term) Repairs
Permanent repairs will include removing and replacing much of the temporary asphalt, embankment fill, and temporary channel protection; as well as re-vegetating, replacing guardrails, and repairing fencing. Some of the roadway sections that were not destroyed, but experienced flood water overtopping the roadway, will be analyzed and possibly replaced.
- Est. Design Start: Summer 2014
- Est. Construction Start: 2016
- $50 million
One of the goals in the repair process is to introduce certain betterments (improvements that go beyond bringing the roadway up to standard) to roadway facilities that were damaged and make them more resilient to similar storm events in the future. Having analyzed the damage caused during the flood event, certain design elements will be incorporated in an effort to prevent or lessen the severe damage that significant flood events can cause. During the permanent repair phase, several alternatives will be developed to ensure that the Big Thompson channel has increased capacity and the roadway has additional high water relief to handle large storm events.