BOULDER, LARIMER COUNTIES — The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) and the Federal Highway Administration – Central Federal Lands Highway Division (CFLHD) are combining expertise and resources to design and construct the final repairs on US 36 between Lyons and Estes Park following the devastating 2013 flood. Work on the emergency repairs is now underway.
“Despite the amazing work done by the National Guard to temporarily reopen the highway, US 36 is still at risk of losing existing embankment and roadway,” said CDOT Resident Engineer Chris Boespflug. “With the upcoming spring runoff imminent, we are doing our best to protect the safety and integrity of the highway immediately, which will make it stronger and more resilient in the future.”
US 36 has been identified as the first mountain corridor to begin and complete remaining emergency and permanent repairs following the flooding. As a critical route into Estes Park for residents, commuters, and tourists, this corridor’s repairs have been expedited for several reasons, including:
1. The alignment along US 36 provides the opportunity to consider options that keep the roadway away from the river more frequently than other mountain highways.
2. A partnership with CFLHD will help add expertise and resources to work on this corridor.
3. US 36 will serve as a primary detour route during permanent repairs to State Highway (SH) 7 and US 34 in the coming months. By moving forward on the US 36 emergency repairs, CDOT can stagger the work being performed on the mountain corridors impacted by the flooding, thereby lessening impacts to the communities and always maintaining access to the town of Estes Park.
4. Traffic counts prior to the tourist season (beginning in May) are much lower and performing work during the winter months will help reduce the impact of repairs.
The work slated for US 36 will be performed in two phases. The first phase, which is now underway, will continue through mid-May 2014 and is considered emergency work crucial to guaranteeing that the roadway lasts through spring runoff. It will include work to stabilize embankments above and below the highway, as well as near the river, in addition to shifting the alignment of US 36 away from the river. The second phase of work will begin in mid-May 2014 and is expected to last until winter 2014. Crews will build the remaining necessary pieces of the roadway to repair US 36 on a long-term basis, which will result in a more resilient and safer highway.
During the first phase of work, crews will be stabilizing sections of the highway that failed during the flood by moving the highway away from the river onto more solid ground (from soil to bedrock). The project will span over the length of 12 miles in all, from mile marker (MM) 7 near Estes Park, and MM 20 near Lyons. Although 12 total miles of highway are impacted, only three total miles will be under construction and work will not be taking place continually throughout the entire length of the project. Crews have divided the work zones into two different sides, east and west of Pinewood Springs, and will be working simultaneously on both sides of the project, but full closures will only take place on one side or the other to minimize impacts to through traffic. During construction, the length of highway closures will be kept to no more than two miles at a time. A full map of the project work zones is available at www.coloradodot.info/projects/floodrelatedprojects/us-36-lyons-to-estes.
In order to stabilize and move the highway during the first phase of work, a portion of the mountainside will be removed via blasting activities. On average, the highway will be moved inland 20 feet, with the range varying between five feet to 50 feet. Altogether, an expected 210,000 cubic yards of material is expected to be removed (the equivalent of 210,000 dishwashers). The materials will be recycled and used to not only stabilize the embankment below the highway, but will also be used to stabilize the river channel. Leftover materials will be donated to other area reconstruction projects underway by towns and counties still recovering from the flood, including the County Road 80 (Longmont Dam Road) project underway by Boulder County.
Construction activities should be anticipated 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m., and again from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., delays will be minimal to accommodate the morning and evening commutes. Between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. crews will be working on the roadway, and a typical one hour stop should be expected at any given time. On weekends, work will take place throughout the day, but stop times will be kept to 30 minutes, although night work is possible. Either a pilot car or flaggers will escort motorists through the construction zone for safety purposes. Crews will try to avoid all work on major holidays, but work will take place on weekends and evenings.
Several planned, multi-hour closures will take place throughout the project to allow for more large-scale blasting activities. Seven days of advanced notice will be provided to allow motorists to plan ahead accordingly. Altogether, there will be 20 different three hour full closures, 10 different two hour full closures, and 10 different night time full closures. The night time full closures will last from 10 p.m. until 5 a.m.
The delays and closures on US 36 will greatly impact traffic, and CDOT is strongly recommending the use of US 34 between Loveland and Estes Park, and SH 7 between Estes Park and Lyons as alternate routes for those who can use them. Throughout the duration of construction, cyclists will not be permitted on US 36 within the work zones, and several trail access points will be closed for safety reasons. Other flood-impacted highways will remain open for cyclists, who ride at their own risk and are urged to ride using extra caution.
American Civil Constructors, Inc. is the contractor for this project.
For additional questions or comments about the US 36 repairs project, please contact US36FloodRepairs@PublicInfoTeam.com or call the project hotline at 970-591-0001. Further information about the project is also available on the project website at www.coloradodot.info/projects/floodrelatedprojects/us-36-lyons-to-estes. Motorists are encouraged to sign up for email updates about the project by clicking on the green cell phone icon on the right hand side of the project website.
To receive real-time updates about road conditions in your area, visit www.coloradodot.info and click on the green cell phone icon in the upper right hand corner of the page. Information about weekly lane closures will be available at www.coloradodot.info/travel/scheduled-lane-closures.html. Live road conditions are available at www.cotrip.org or by calling 511 from anywhere in the state. Updates are also available via Twitter @coloradodot and be sure to “Like” our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/coloradodot.