US 36, the highway between Lyons and Estes Park, has been identified as the first road to undergo permanent repairs after it was severely damaged in the September 2013 floods. Sections of the highway are so eroded by the river that parts are down to one lane until repairs can be made.
The highway is closed to bicycles and recreational access through mid-May, when the first phase of repairs is scheduled to be done.
The Colorado Department of Transportation says the permanent repairs are critical to begin now before spring runoff threatens the highway’s safety and integrity.
Not only is the highway an important route for residents and tourists traveling to Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park, it will also serve as a primary detour route later in 2014 when state highway 34 and US 34 undergo permanent repairs.
Shifting the road away from Big Thompson River
Repair plans are focused on stabilizing parts of the road that failed during the flood and “armoring” river banks to reduce road damage in future floods. On sections of the highway, the road will be shifted five to 50 feet from the river.
That move requires extensive blasting and removal of parts of the mountainside (some rock will be reused to stabilize the road). The work will take place in two phases:
Phase 1: January to mid-May 2014
Emergency work to maintain and stabilize the roadway before and during spring runoff.
Phase 2: mid-May to fall 2014
Build embankment, road base, asphalt, signing and striping and safety features for long-term repair. This will include adding 6-foot shoulders on some parts of the road and improving safety by softening some mountain curves, including Dead Man’s Curve.
Officials strongly suggest avoiding US 36 and using state highway 7 and US 34.