US 34 Big Thompson Canyon
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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 November 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.
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.
Filed under: 2013 Flood