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Fort Collins to start 2-year, $42M infrastructure project in Old Town to address 150-year-old issues

Fort Collins to start $42M infrastructure project in Old Town
Fort Collins to start $42M infrastructure project in Old Town 02:56

The City of Fort Collins is moving forward with one of its largest infrastructure projects ever as the city prepares to address more than a century of flooding concerns. The project will install a new drainage system through Old Town, largely along Oak Street, west of College Avenue.

The project, which is expected to take two years to complete, was first reported by the Coloradoan.

Larimer County and Fort Collins have a history of flooding, with some floods in recent decades resulting in fatalities. However, project manager Heather McDowell said the issues with flooding around Old Town have been an issue since the heart of the city was developed in the 1800s.

"We have had flooding issues in downtown Fort Collins as long as Fort Collins has been around," she said. "As we have developed over the years, flooding has become more and more prevalent."

Heather McDowell CBS

The city has been working on addressing flooding in and around Old Town for decades. The eastern side of College Avenue was worked on roughly 20 years ago. The city has been working on plans for the western end for nearly 10 years.

Officials expect to break ground on the project close to College Avenue in July.

"Our best solution for flood control is to put pipes in the ground so we can quickly move water off the street," McDowell said.

One of the main intersections that experience flooding after heavier storms is that of West Mulberry Street and South College Avenue, one of the busiest in the city, McDowell said.

Staff at Lucky's Market, which sits at that intersection, told CBS News Colorado they had issues with flooding on their property as recently as last year.

McDowell said recent studies showed the threat of damage as the result of flooding was much greater monetarily than the project itself.

"There's over 500 structures in the flood plain in Old Town," McDowell said. "We don't see that anywhere else in Fort Collins."

A study the city engaged found that more than $150 million in damages could occur after a major flood, so at $42 million, for McDowell, "The cost-benefit makes sense."

The project will include the installation of drainage pipes that are six-and-a-half feet wide. The city will have to dig down more than 30 feet in some areas to install the pipe.

McDowell said the project will be able to handle historic floods when they do happen: "It will carry the 100-year, or 1% chance, flood."

The city also plans to use the project as a way to improve the roadway and sidewalks around the project. Not only will some traffic patterns be adjusted, but Fort Collins also plans to improve handicap accessibility on the sidewalks along the project. There will also be other improvements including more green space and the addition of some new art to the community.

You can read more about the plan on the city's website.

The city plans to run construction from near College Avenue all the way to Jackson, near City Park. The project will be done in phases.

McDowell says it needs to start now: "It's time to get rolling on it with construction."

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