BOULDER, Colo. -- It’s the main road from Boulder to Nederland — and also provides access to other mountain communities.
But our unprecedented floods closed Highway 119 through Boulder Canyon for nearly a month—until Sunday night.
The clock ticks away on a road closure that’s opened up frustration for people who rely on the highway to get home and to work.
“I don’t think we realized what a lifeline it was,” says Nederland resident Carol Stimmel.
People line up at the mouth of the closed road.
It’s just 15 minutes until they’re back on the road to a more normal life.
“I hear the canyon is opening at 5 (p.m.). I thought I’d wait,” says Stimmel, who drove into Westminster for a going-away party.
Normally, the ride into Boulder is just 20 minutes.
“It took me almost two hours to get to the party today in Westminster,” she says.
Brad Adkins lives just four miles up the canyon—and without Highway 119—he continues to feel the floods effects each day.
“It’s about a two-hour drive versus a 15-minute drive,” he says. “We’ve had to drive all way around Black Hawk, Clear Creek and Golden just to get back down into Boulder or Broomfield.”
The time-consuming travel is the result of crews repairing damage from flooding that ripped out roads, culverts and guardrails along the road.
“Dead, deader than a doornail,” says Estes Park resident Betty Ranney, about the effect the closed highway has had on her once-thriving tourist town.
She hopes the opening will bring back the crowds.
It’s nearly time.
The crowd shouts out a countdown to one to its opening.
And with that, the State Patrol and National Guard move out of the way.
A line of drivers show their appreciation—honking and waving—as they drive up the repaired highway.
It opened at least a week early. The Colorado Department of Transportation originally said it would open mid to late-October.
A quick drive shows tell-tale signs of damage—patched up asphalt, new guardrails and roadside debris.
But the best sight for residents are other drivers—reminders of the time they’ll spend with family—instead of the road.
“Sleep,” laughs Adkins. “Sleep and catch up on our TV shows,” with how he’ll spend the extra time he gets back.
CDOT says it was able to finish repairs sooner because it had crews working 24 hours a day seven days a week.