The images from the summer are unforgettable: mud pouring onto the highway, vehicles swept aside, stranded motorists trying to cross precarious makeshift bridges to get off the road to higher ground.
With flooding along the Waldo Canyon burn scar a reality for the next several years, CDOT crews are working now to prevent future disasters along Ute Pass on Highway 24.
Workers are installing a giant culvert to prevent water and debris from getting onto the highway. CDOT says the culvert will be 10 times larger than the one that currently exists under the highway. The work started Wednesday, and is expected to continue through the month of April.
Like Thursday, the left eastbound and westbound lane will be closed for a mile-long stretch by Waldo Canyon on Friday, starting at 7 a.m. and lasting through 6 p.m. Starting next week and continuing for about two weeks, eastbound Highway 24 will be completely shut down. Traffic will be diverted to westbound Highway 24, which will be open for both directions of travel, one lane for each direction. Nothing will be happening Saturday and Sunday, as CDOT delayed the work expected to start Saturday until after the Presidents Day weekend.
“This is another one of the many steps we’re taking to help mitigate the flooding that’s been occurring on Ute Pass during the rainy season,” CDOT Resident Engineer Dave Watt said in a statement released Wednesday. “Placing an oversized culvert will allow the high water, debris and mud to pass under the highway, not over it, removing one more hazard to the traveling public.”
11 News Chief Meteorologist Brian Bledsoe explained the importance of the new, much larger culvert.
"Debris was clogging the [old] culvert, so even just a little bit of rain that would run off the sides of those hills, if the culvert was clogged it would spill onto the road, and we'd have the disaster that was last year."
Bledsoe elaborates further in the video above.