Projects

US 34 Big Thompson Canyon

US 34 Between Loveland and Estes Park Open to All Traffic


Background

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.


Damage Overview

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

US 34 - Emergency 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.

See a brochure that further explains the permanent repair process.


Estimated Timeline & Budget

  • Est. Design Start: Summer 2014
  • Construction Start: 2016
  • Cost: $280 million

Benefits

  • Beyond bringing the road up to standards, these repairs will make the road more resilient to similar future storms.
  • CDOT has analyzed flood-caused damage and will use this knowledge to incorporate improvements to prevent or lessen the severe damage that significant floods can cause.
  • CDOT is developing several alternatives to ensure the Big Thompson channel has increased capacity, and the roadway has additional high-water relief to handle large storms.

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