Colorado will tap $100 million emergency fund to repair flood-ravaged bridges and roadways

DENVER - Dozens of state highways remain closed because of flood damage.

Many road decks have been washed away and some bridges are damaged or destroyed.

Inspection crews with the Colorado Department of Transportation have already inspected 100 bridges and expect to review more than 1,000 before they're done.

"Right now, we're trying to assess bridges to get people access -- to get access to communities, to get people to safety that need to be there," said CDOT bridge engineer Joshua Laipply. "We're being surgical about which ones we're going to hit first, where there's lower water."

In many cases, inspectors cannot see to the bottom of the structure because the waterways are still running too high.

"Once we establish where that channel bottom is, we go back to the plans that we have on all these structures and we figure out, has the foundation undermined or has it not?" said Laipply. "If it's undermined, then it's questionable and we won't open it."

Laipply gave 7NEWS a tour of the Highway 60 bridge over the South Platte River between Platteville and Milliken. The water reached as high as the bridge deck, but did not damage the structure.

"The problem with this particular bridge is the approach roadway washed out. What we found in some of these situations is, our bridge has been pretty stout, but the approach roadway was the weak spot," said Laipply.

About five to six feet of the road leading up to the bridge was destroyed by the flooding. CDOT crews repaired the pavement and on Tuesday afternoon were in the final steps to cleaning off the bridge deck to reopen the bridge.

CDOT is using a triage system to determine what bridges get attention first.

"We know some bridges are washed out, those are closed. We're not going to go inspect those. We know we've got to replace those," said Laipply.

7NEWS was also granted access to the still-closed Highway 119 bridge over the St. Vrain River, just west of Interstate 25.

The bridge deck is missing a chunk of its westbound shoulder.

"Our biggest priority now is really, how do we connect communities," said CDOT spokeswoman Amy Ford. "We're setting up (U.S.) 36, (U.S.) 34, (Highway) 7, (Highway) 72 and also (Highway) 119 as key priorities."

CDOT plans to focus attention on the communities that have limited access.

"Our repairs really are going to be based about connectivity, and so how do we get back into areas that really only have one way in or out," said Ford.

In some cases, the road may be repaired where it was originally built. In other situations, CDOT may consider moving the road as a result of where the waterway now flows.

7NEWS found out the money to begin repairs will come from CDOT's emergency fund.

"Our transportation commission will be allocating the entire contingency fund that CDOT has, which is $100 million, to start paying for any of these repairs," said Ford.

She also said the Federal Highway Administration has contributed $5 million. CDOT also plans to tap into sources of funding provided by FEMA.


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