End of construction delays along US 36 brings hope to flood victims

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road construction

(Photo: MGN Online)

PINEWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. — Long construction delays have ended for visitors and residents who travel along Highway 36 to Estes Park.

The September floods meant drivers waited up to two hours in construction zones.

With Phase One completed, drivers could see the beautiful vistas with much more ease.

The sound of money, the sound of satisfied customers, the sound of unencumbered traffic could be heard outside Colorado Cherry Company in Pinewood Springs.

“We are very relieved,” said the famous pie shop’s manager, Geri Plank.

These cries of excitement and flowing traffic were sounds residents and visitors along U.S. 36, from Lyons to Estes Park, have been longing for.

“Because of the delays, people were not coming up,” Plank said. “Business had been half of what we normally have.”

On Thursday, CDOT officially completed six months of Phase One construction of the main highway damaged by unprecedented flooding last September.

“It was devastating to hear we could not get back up there,” said Cynnamen Kiser, a frequent visitor to Estes Park.

After the flood devastation, she and her husband, Tony Kiser, drove four hours to get from Firestone to Estes Park.

They said the maximum 15-minute delay expected through September is now a piece a cake.

“I think it will help a lot. It will. It will,” she said.

Estes Park benefited from the construction completion this weekend, where business was booming due to the Fourth of July holiday weekend.

Traffic and people filled streets and businesses like a full stomach at a holiday barbeque.

Phase Two of construction begins Monday, CDOT said, when crews will add more layers of pavement, put up guardrails and finish striping.

CDOT added that it anticipates crews to finish Phase Two by fall. But residents said more work remains.

“The highway is open, but recovery is very far from over, said the manager of the Larimer County Long Term Recovery Group Laura Levy. “We have years.”

With offices in Estes Park and Loveland, the Larimer County Long Term Recover Group is made up of more than 50 agencies, charities and case managers who assist flood survivors in the recovery process.

Levy said thousands of families were affected by the flooding — the waters damaged or destroyed nearly 2,000 homes.

While there is no end date for their recovery, others said they’re finally seeing a much sweeter future.

“From here on we expect  we will hopefully gradually get back to where it should be,” Levy said.

Visitors to Estes Park can still expect one-hour construction delays at night, but none on weekends.

People can donate, volunteer or follow the flood recovery in Larimer County by visiting the Larimer County Long Term Recovery Group website or Facebook page.

Flood victims who need help can contact the recovery-assistance organization at 970-461-2222.