by Scott Harrison
EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. - Large blocks of concrete culverts were being placed into the washed-out section of Old Pueblo Road, south of Fountain, on Tuesday.
The previous smaller, metal culvert failed during flooding after a July 23 storm. The section of road has been closed since.
A large crane lifted 10 blocks into place, each weighing 13 tons and previously acquired by El Paso County from Denver International Airport.
Workers will next backfill the area around the culverts and pave the top of it.
Officials plan to reopen the road as early as this weekend. The repair cost is $1.2 million.
Jim Reid, executive director of public works for the county, isn't bemoaning that the county doesn't qualify for federal funds to help pay for repairs.
"There's a plus and a negative to working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency," he said. "If you had FEMA here, they'd have to do all of the review, and look at and approve the plans, etc. Sometimes that can delay things up to six to eight weeks -- or six months, in some cases."
Many drivers considered the repair job too lengthy or that it went beyond what was needed, and others complained about the inconvenience of a long detour around the washout.
Yet many drivers said they approve of the repairs and were willing to wait as long as needed for them to be completed.
"I was worried about the safety," said Rex Miller, who lives near the washout. "If there had been a wreck on the Interstate, they'd like to turn (traffic) onto Old Pueblo Road. That would have been a disaster."
Two of Tatum's firefighters were injured the night of the washout when they drove into it while responding to a report of another vehicle that had done the same.
"One's in rehab and will probably be in there for another month," he said. "The other has six broken vertebrae, facial fractures and has had two surgeries so far. He'll be in a back brace for a few months."
Neighbors said they look forward to having mail delivery resume after the road reopens.
Workers overcame a high level of groundwater site, found active and abandoned utility lines and even discovered an old wooden bridge buried there.