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'A Giant Hole In The Highway': Engineers Work To Fix U.S. 36

WESTMINSTER, Colo. (CBS4) - Not too often can you watch a highway crumble, but Kevin Falkenstein didn't want to miss the opportunity. He lives in Westminster and frequently travels on U.S. 36 near Wadsworth, the now buckled and busted roadway.

US 36 Highway 36 collapses in Westminster 12VO_frame_1050
Monday, July 15 (credit: CBS)

"It's not the kind of thing you want to have happen, but if it's going to happen, you kind of want to see it," he said of the busted eastbound lanes.

He was on his way home for his lunch break when he decided to pull into a nearby shopping center parking lot to see the damaged highway.

us 36
Before picture of U.S. 36 damage (credit: Kevin Falkenstein)

"You'll see a lit bit of dirt fall for about 20 seconds and then it doesn't do anything for a while," he told CBS4's Kelly Werthmann. "The collapse is imminent, but you just don't know when.

He snapped a couple photos on his cell phone before returning to work. About three hours later, Falkenstein returned to see if the damage was any worse.

us 36
After picture of U.S. 36 damage (credit: Kevin Falkenstein)

"The hole's twice as big as it was at noon," Falkenstein described, comparing his photo to the crumbling wall. "I was really surprised to see a giant hole in the highway."

CDOT engineers said the damaged stretch of U.S. 36 is still shifting, about an inch every hour. The wall failure and buckled road may be due to excessive moisture – from not only the wet winter and spring, but also Lower Church Lake that once was there and the marsh-like land that remains.

Lower Church Lake credit Westminster Historical Society
(credit: Westminster Historical Society)

"That was taken into account the first time [US-36 was built], so that's why we're looking into it in more detail to see if there's something we overlooked or something that happened that we couldn't have foreseen," Tony Meneghetti, CDOT's lead engineer for emergency response, explained. "As to what the specific cause of it is we can't say at this time."

Meneghetti said an investigation is still underway, and part of the emergency response plan is to pick a construction contractor for the redesign and rebuild. That could take some time, so it's not clear when the highway will be rebuilt and how much it will cost.

Highway 36 buckles in Westminster
Monday, July 15 (credit: CBS)

"Well, I hope they do a better job this time," Falkenstein said with a little laugh.

Falkenstein said he isn't too nervous about commuting on the eventually rebuilt highway, but is worried about the impact the mess is creating now.

"I'm only nervous about the traffic," he said.

RELATED: How To Get Around The U.S. 36 Closure

As for traffic, CDOT said it plans to shift eastbound traffic into the westbound side, with two lanes for each direction. Crews will convert the toll lane and shoulder on the westbound side to make room. The hope is to have the half mile stretch up and going by Wednesday morning. Drivers should still plan to add an extra 30-45 minutes to their commute through the area.

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