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How Long Will It Take To Rebuild Highway 34 In the Big Thompson Canyon After Colorado Flooding?

hwy 34 Justin Smith
Sheriff Justin Smith

The flooding we’re experiencing right now is some of the worst in our area’s history. At least 17 miles of highway 34 in the Thompson Canyon will have to be rebuilt after being washed-out or damaged. With the snowy season looming on the horizon, just how long is it going to take before that route is back to normal?

More Pictures of Highway 34 Destruction Here

My guess is, quite a while. One of the deadliest flash floods in the country happened in the Big Thompson Canyon on July 31, 1976, where 144 people lost their lives.

According to the Loveland Reporter Herald it took the Colorado Department of Transportation 86 days to open the highway back up to the public on October 25th, but it took almost four years to completely rebuild the road.

Yes, we have a lot of new technologies since then that will help speed up the process today, but every drop of rain that falls from here on out and every flake of snow is going to slow the rebuilding project. It took them 86 days to re-open the road back in 1976; 86-day from now would put us well into November. (Even if they can cut that time in half, that would still be the near end of October.)

Now, factor in what happens to mountain road construction when it starts to snow, and how much more damage that could be found once the flood waters finally recede. I could see scenarios where many mountain roads might not be repaired until spring or later. Highway 34 will be a major priority, I’m sure, but it takes a lot of work to built roads in the canyon. I’m hoping for the best, but I think we could be in for a long-haul before we have our usual routes into the mountains operating normally again.

Keep in mind, all of this is speculation on my part. I don’t think we’ll really know how long it will take until CDOT officials can truly survey all the damage and start planning the work that needs to be done.

One of our fellow twitter users said that CDOT is estimating the repair work to take up to 18-months!

This tweet has some pictures from that flood that look eerily similar to some of the pictures we’re seeing out of the canyon this weekend.

And here is one that shows a side-by-side photo of damage in 1976 with damage in 2013.


NEXT: Pictures of Highway 34 Destruction

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