From the Colorado Department of Transportation via The Estes Park Trail-Gazette:
The Colorado Department of Transportation announced today that beginning in late October and continuing through early June of 2017, travel on U.S. Highway 34 between Estes Park and Loveland will be limited to Big Thompson Canyon residents only seven days a week.
Permitted residents will be allowed access between the hours of 6 to 8:30 a.m. and 4 to 7 p.m.
The highway will remain open this summer to traffic in both directions, but when work begins in July, there will be short-duration lane closures for general construction activities and traffic stops for rock blasting work between Mile Points 77 and 81 (from just east of Drake to the Cedar Cove area). People driving through this area should plan for up to 20- to 30-minute delays throughout the summer.
This fall when travel is restricted to canyon residents, only drivers displaying the requisite vehicle permit will be allowed to follow pilot cars in either the eastbound or westbound direction between Drake and Cedar Cove. With the closure area being about 3 ½ miles long, canyon residents will encounter some delays as each pilot car completes its passage through the work zone and is ready to make the return trip in the opposite direction. This phase of work, which will focus on the east end of the canyon between mile markers 77 – 80, will start in October and continue through early June 2017.
“We took into consideration all the public comments received in several public meetings, emails and phone calls, conversations with emergency service provides, school bus drivers, city agencies and various other project partners, when we developed this traffic management plan for the first phase of work between Drake and Loveland,” said James Usher, U.S. 34 Big Thompson Canyon Project Director.
The only access to U.S. 34 from late October through June 2017 will be canyon residents, emergency services and people doing business in the canyon (i.e. waste haulers, propane companies, package delivery, etc.) through permits. In September, CDOT will distribute detailed information on how to obtain permits and how this process will work.
All others will need to use U.S. High 36 and Colorado Highway 66 to travel between Estes Park and Loveland.
“We realize that while this traffic control schedule accommodates most of the concerns we heard from the community, it won’t address every concern and cater to everyone’s personal schedule. In the interest of maintaining safe access to canyon residents and completing this first phase of rock blasting work as quickly as possible, it was determined that this was the best option available,” said Usher.
This traffic control schedule also enables most of the stringent travel restrictions to occur during the tourism “off season” to minimize the impact on area businesses. While there will be traffic impacts in subsequent summers that include sections of one-lane travel through the canyon, this summer there will only be short-term traffic stops when blasting work is done. Through travel will be maintained in the canyon this summer and all businesses will be open and accessible.
U.S. 34 Big Thompson Canyon was heavily damaged during the 2013 floods with many homes damaged and more than 100 air-lifted evacuations performed. 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 while looking for safety improvements and resiliency solutions to prevent/protect against future flood events.
CDOT Project Information
For updates to this project, the public may call (720) 263-1589 or visit http://www.codot.gov/projects/floodrelatedprojects/us-34-big-thompson-canyon-1. To sign up for “CDOT Alerts” on projects in your chosen area, visit CDOT’s website http://atwww.codot.gov and choose the envelope icon at the bottom of the page. Or, to see CDOT’s lane closure reports for projects statewide, visit http://www.codot.gov/travel/scheduled-lane-closures.html. Major CDOT project updates are also available via CoTrip.org, Twitter @coloradodot or Facebook.