Repairs from floods begin taking shape

This view typifies but doesn’t tell the entire story of damage in and near Manitou Springs along U.S. Highway 24 and its business route through the town, which the Colorado Department of Transportation hopes to reopen as soon as Thanksgiving.

This view typifies but doesn’t tell the entire story of damage in and near Manitou Springs along U.S. Highway 24 and its business route through the town, which the Colorado Department of Transportation hopes to reopen as soon as Thanksgiving.

Nearly a month after Colorado’s last flood pushed the state’s damage estimate to nearly a half-billion dollars, city, county and state agencies have initiated efforts to repair roughly $30 million in infrastructural damage across the Pikes Peak region, according to officials.

While the north-central section of the state received the brunt of damage caused by the summer flooding — which the governor’s office has estimated at $300 million to $500 million — Colorado Springs and its surrounding communities also sustained severe damage to parks and infrastructure.

Many of these repair efforts are projected to take only weeks or months, while some are on seemingly indefinite deadlines.

Department of Transportation

The majority of work on or pertaining to state roadways in the Pikes Peak region should be completed by early spring and will produce a bill of approximately $15 million, according to estimates by the Colorado Department of Transportation.

Doug Lollar, the north program engineer for CDOT’s Region 2, said that the majority of El Paso County’s damage is concentrated around the Waldo Canyon burn scar near Manitou Springs, which covered U.S. Highway 24 with feet of floodwater, scattered debris and left much roadway in disrepair.

“Prior to the statewide flooding that took place in early September, we had some minor flooding events in July and then a significant event on Highway 24 on Aug. 9,” said Lollar, who is responsible for project planning, design, construction and improvements of state highways in Custer, El Paso, Fremont, Park and Teller counties.

Lollar said that the damage caused by this year’s Waldo Canyon flood piled another $3-3.5 million atop the $5.1 million in needed reparation following the 2012 post-fire flood, which was undergoing construction when this summer’s flood hit. County roads elsewhere in Region 2 have sustained an additional $500,000 in estimated damage, he said.

“We put together a project to address some of those areas and were working on those areas when the flooding this summer occurred,” Lollar said, adding that work began in March to improve catchment basins and culverts along Highway 24.

“It’s about looking ahead and taking advantage of intelligent transportation systems.” 

– Doug Lollar, CDOT

Some of those areas continue to undergo work as a result of the delay caused by this year’s rains. But the most recent damage caused by the floods is “relatively minor,” Lollar said, affecting mainly culvert pipes, creating sediment buildup and resulting in the washing out of embankments.

Lollar said the biggest undertaking after this summer’s rainy season is to “completely rebuild the Highway 24 business route in Manitou [Springs]” from the town’s west edge. He said the project is currently underway, and contractors are working to have the thoroughfare accessible again by Thanksgiving.

Other projects in the canyon include the replacement of a major culvert, which Lollar said should begin in November and be completed by January. He said that the updated system will be better suited to handle the volume of runoff produced by the burn scar. Additional projects along Highway 24 and elsewhere in the region will continue through February, he said.

In addition to the $9 million in flood-related costs, CDOT will approach the state Transportation Commission on Oct. 17 to request funding for two additional items: an estimated $4.5 million for an early-warning system with water-flow gauges and an automated gate system for Highway 24;  and an estimated $1 million for additional equipment, including a vacuum-powered truck to collect and haul storm debris.

“It’s about looking ahead and taking advantage of intelligent transportation systems,” Lollar said. “The [Department of Transportation] is always committed to keeping our roadways as safe as possible, and there are tremendous projects underway and a lot of teamwork going on. We’re really kind of in this together, and we’re really intent on keeping these roadways safe.”

El Paso County

El Paso County sustained initial damages to its roads estimated at $1.85 million from late-summer floods, according to a Sept. 18 news release.

“Those remain the best estimates we have at this point,” said County Operations Manager Max Kirschbaum.

Among the estimated damage inflicted by the storms and flash floods include the following:

A half-mile span of Old Stage Road was washed out, affecting drainage ditches and culverts and causing around $800,000 in damage.

A 300-foot portion of Rock Creek Canyon Road was completely washed away by an overflowing nearby stream, causing a need for repairs estimated at $250,000.

Another 300-foot section of Spruce Lane was partially damaged, causing approximately $200,000 in damages.

The deterioration of yet another 300-foot span of roadway at Paseo Corto has resulted in about $250,000 in estimated damage.

Two bridged portions of Academy Boulevard crossing Fountain Creek were seriously impacted by the heavy rains and flooding, resulting in “causing concern for potential catastrophic failure” and need for approximately $250,000 in repair work.

Another bridge crossing Fountain Creek along Golden Lane in Old Colorado City is in need of an estimated $100,000 of repair to abutment as a result of the storms.

Kirschbaum said that there is currently no timeline for these projects, but that “the sum of that list is several months.” Details related to the timeframe of these projects, however, will be determined during meetings with state and federal officials that began Wednesday. During these meetings, the entities will also discuss Federal Emergency Management Agency funding and a cost-share plan for the county.

“They’re all kind of in a condition that we can endure through for several months,” he said. “I’m not sure how long the permanent repairs will take — but it will be months, not weeks.”

City of Colorado Springs

While the city of Colorado Springs has experienced an estimated $13 million in damage as a result of the floods, Senior Communications Specialist Krithika Prashant said that damage assessments are ongoing to determine specific areas of focus and a concise breakdown of that estimate.

“The main departments where this is affected are Public Works and [Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services],” Prashant said. “That number is constantly changing and evolving.”