The Colorado Flood Recovery – An Infrastructure Update

Chicago, IL – Colorado’s roadway construction industry has been put to work in an effort to rebuild infrastructure destroyed in the Sept. 9-15 100-year flood that took the lives of eight people, forced tens of thousands to evacuate and caused property damages estimated at $1.3 billion across the state’s Front Range.

Colorado Highway Damage

Colorado DOT (CDOT) reported it lost 50 bridges and more than 200 miles of highways to the flood waters. Last week, CDOT issued highway reconstruction contracts to four contracting teams to begin repair and reconstruction work.

Kiewit Infrastructure of Littleton, Colorado; Skansa USA Civil West of Cortez, Colorado; Ralph L. Wadsworth of Draper, Utah; and Lawrence Construction and URS Corporation of Denver head up the four teams.

“There are no set costs for these contracts and no liquidated damages,” said CDOT spokeswoman Amy Ford. “We are aiming for a Dec. 1 completion. But that’s a goal, not a firm deadline. We will pay them whatever it takes to do the work, and they are starting it immediately.”

CDOT estimates damages at $475 million to carry out repairs and reconstruction work. CDOT released $100 million in contingency funds and received another $35 million in “quick relief” funds from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Governor John Hickenlooper is seeking $500 million in federal emergency funds. Congress would have to approve lifting a $100 million cap on emergency funds. The cap was lifted to fund emergency repairs in the Northeast after Superstorm Sandy.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden toured the flood-impacted area a week after the event and acknowledged the initial federal emergency funds “aren’t going to be enough. We’re going to keep working with the governor until we make you whole,” he said.

CDOT has targeted Dec. 1 for completion of repairs and reconstruction. CDOT had re-opened half of the closed highways two weeks after the floods. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have been on the ground since shortly after the disaster.

Four days after the flood, Hickenlooper and CDOT Executive Director Don Hunt announced the establishment of an Infrastructure Recovery Force (IRF) to clear, repair and reconstruct damaged sections of highway and coordinate with local governments in establishing critical links to local roads, bridges, water, sewer, power and communications.

“This Infrastructure Recovery Force will help provide a single point of focus and coordination to help us reconnect our communities and rebuild Colorado’s roads and bridges,” said Hickenlooper.  “It will have three primary objectives: speed, efficiency and to improve our transportation system.”

CDOT’s Hunt said his agency will be battling time and the elements. ““With winter on our heels, we will be restoring routes to communities that currently have limited access,” said Hunt. “Over the next 60 days, our IR Force, with help from the contracting community, National Guard and our state and federal partners, will focus on removing debris and building temporary roads to improve access to as many impacted routes as possible.  It is imperative that we restore as much highway infrastructure as possible in the next two to three months.”

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