LOVELAND, Colo. -- U.S. Highway 34 through the Big Thompson Canyon between Estes Park and Loveland will open fully to traffic at 4 p.m. Thursday. It took time, but the Colorado Department of Transportation hopes it was time well spent.
During the 2013 floods, the raging Big Thompson River devoured the road, bridges and anything else in its path. Since then, the canyon has never been the same.
It was in 2016 when the bulk of construction got underway to fix the road and revamp the canyon around the river.
CDOT and Kiewit Infrastructure Co. worked since October to reopen the canyon and shave 18 months off the construction schedule.
Over time, construction crews added 95,000 cubic yards of rock to help protect the roadway from flooding erosion, 20,000 linear feet of river improvement and 4,000 linear feet of new drainage pipe.
"A tremendous amount of work has been put in to make this opening before Memorial Day happen," said CDOT project manager James Usher.
Ultimately, CDOT hopes the project will minimize the impacts of a future flood by maximizing protected emergency routes to allow for canyon travelers and residents to get out and for emergency responders to get in.