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Gazette Premium Content Highway 24 corridor gets $8 million in emergency funds after floods

By Garrison Wells Updated: September 21, 2013 at 7:37 am

A regional group Friday cleared the way for roughly $8 million in emergency federal funds for flood repair work on the Highway 24 corridor.

The move follows a series of federal and state steps in the past few days aimed at flood recovery in Colorado. The state has been hard hit by widespread flooding in several areas ranging from Manitou Springs and Colorado Springs to Aurora, Greeley, Boulder and the towns of Lyons and Jamestown.

In El Paso County, flash floods in August rolled down the Waldo Canyon burn scar, washing cars off parts of Highway 24 and damaging homes and businesses in Manitou Springs. One person was killed.

In all, the state has been hit with devastating flooding in 17 counties along the Front Range and on the eastern plains, according to the governor's office.

On Thursday, Gov. John Hickenlooper named Jerre Stead, former CEO of a Colorado company called IHS, chief recovery officer to head rebuilding efforts.

"We are about to embark on a rebuilding effort that is truly epic in scale," Hickenlooper said.

With winter looming, the rush is on.

The $8 million will be used on such projects as replacing smaller culverts with larger ones to capture flood waters from the Waldo Canyon burn scar and slope stabilization to reduce flooding, said Dennis Hisey, chairman of the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments board.

Hisey is also chair of the El Paso County commissioners.

"A lot of it is stabilization, where banks have washed away, and making it so when the next flood event comes the water will flow through," he said.

The PPACG and Colorado Department of Transportation officials held the emergency meeting to recognize the funding, a step that was necessary so the money could be spent, Hisey said.

In addition to road work, high technology will be introduced to provide earlier flood detection.

"They're working on some high tech stuff, cameras, sensors and gauges that CDOT can monitor remotely for rain flows and traffic," Hisey said. "They will be able to know what's happening without having somebody sitting on a hillside ."

Construction could start within a week, although it depends in part on contracts. Some bids have already come in, but others are in the works.

Construction delays are likely, Hisey said.

"They will do their very best to keep one lane open in each direction at all times," he said. "But there will be times when there are barricades set up and people will be down to one lane."

In 2012, $5.1 million was earmarked for the area. Most of it has been spent.

"We needed the money," Hisey said. "We're glad to get it."

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