Approaching winter increases urgency
LONGMONT, Colo. – State highway crews and National Guard troops worked furiously Sunday to repair highways to Colorado mountain towns cut off by unprecedented flooding.
Other teams were assessing how much damage needed to be repaired on Colorado’s eastern plains before trucks begin hauling in the fall harvest.
“They’re really humming,” said Jerre Stead, the corporate executive chosen by Gov. John Hickenlooper to oversee the state’s recovery from the catastrophic floods, which killed seven and wreaked havoc across 17 counties and 2,000 square miles.
Stead and Don Hunt, executive director of the Colorado Department of Transportation, said they were optimistic they can meet a Dec. 1 target to complete temporary fixes to at least some roads, if more bad weather doesn’t interfere.
Quick repairs are critical because winter weather will make highway work more difficult and force the closure of the high-elevation Trail Ridge Road through Rocky Mountain National Park, one of only two routes still open into Estes Park, a small town at the park’s east entrance.
Also looming are the harvests from Colorado’s $8.5 billion-a-year agriculture industry, which relies on trucks to get cattle and crops to markets.
Some 200 miles of state highways and 50 bridges were destroyed.
Colorado will award several contracts for emergency repairs to construction companies today. State employees and National Guard soldiers are already on the job and making quick progress, Stead said.