WESTMINSTER, Colo. — The traffic nightmare spurred by a large crack — and then road collapse — along the U.S. 36 corridor will ease slightly come Tuesday morning.
On Monday, the Colorado Department of Transportation said they planned to have two eastbound lanes open on the westbound side of the damaged bridge near Wadsworth in time for the Wednesday morning commute. However, on Tuesday morning, after working around the clock, crews were able to open two lanes a full day earlier than expected.
Crews shifted eastbound traffic along the damaged section of the road to the westbound side. There will be two lanes, separated by concrete barriers, in each direction for about half a mile. Travel will likely be slower in this area, CDOT said, so driver should expect some delays and give themselves extra time if they have to drive through this section of the highway during busy times. If you want to avoid the whole area, here are some alternative routes. A bike detour has also been set up.
"The CDOT team has worked around the clock to get eastbound travel lanes open as soon and as safely as possible to keep people and commerce moving," said CDOT Executive Director Shohana Lew. "We are now working to get a contractor on board to rebuild the section of eastbound US 36 that collapsed, and we will continue to keep the public informed.”
The westbound side and adjacent bridge are safe and in good condition, according to CDOT.
The eastbound lanes in that section of U.S. 36 have been closed since Friday morning after large cracks started developing on the bridge's road surface. However, CDOT said engineers first noticed the cracks Monday of that week, but they were too small to take immediate action.
But by the weekend, the cracks quickly grew larger as the void in the road's base expanded to more than 300 feet long and 60 feet wide, causing the road surface to sink about an inch an hour, a CDOT spokesperson said.
Josh Laipply, CDOT's chief engineer, described the problem as a "pretty large slope failure," in which the soil beneath the road settled and shifted and caused the highway to buckle.
Crews over the weekend worked to stabilize the soil by drilling concrete caissons into the ground, Laipply said, but the earth continued to shift and settled, making the repair process difficult.
CDOT officials said they're not yet sure of the cost of repairs or where the funding will come from. Right now, they're focused on getting the roadway restored.