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It will cost $20 million to fix massive hole in US 36

The crack-turned-sinkhole-turned traffic nightmare that first appeared on eastbound US 36 last week is going to be around for a while.

WESTMINSTER, Colo. — The emergency cost to fix US 36 just west of Church Ranch Boulevard will be around $20 million, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) is estimating.

The Colorado Department of Transportation Commission gave CDOT permission to set aside $20.4 million from the commission's contingency fund to pay for the emergency repairs on US 36.

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The $20 million is the estimate for the rebuilding of the road deck and shoring up the structure itself.

$175,000 is for the emergency response and incident command set up at the site.

$100,000 is for a forensic analysis of what happened and why.

$140,000 is to reimburse RTD for making the Flatiron Flyer bus free on Monday and Tuesday. A CDOT spokesman said it was based on an estimate of 14,000 riders at $5 per ride for both days.

An RTD spokeswoman said it was to cover the fare revenues that RTD would have missed out on, which fund operation costs, salaries and maintenance. A question about how many riders actually used the Flatiron Flyer for those two days was not answered as of Thursday night.

According to CDOT's chief engineer Josh Laipply, the road continues to sink.

"We're settling at about an inch per hour consistently. And so, you talk about 24 hours, that's two feet per day," said Laipply. "That has continued to happen."

At the commission meeting, Laipply said the problem solvers were right next door.

"About 50 feet away from us, the contractor, the designer, the CDOT team, including maintenance and engineering and construction, are all in a room figuring out what the solution is and what the time frame is," said Laipply.

He said it would be weeks to repair the road, but it may not be pretty for a while longer.

RELATED: Ways to get from Boulder to Denver that aren't US 36 (because there's a huge crack in the road)

"Getting traffic back on it, that's a certain time period, and then getting it to where we've got the panels back up and everything looks good, there's a difference to me of that. Operational functionality, weeks," said Laipply.

CDOT has hired an independent forensic team to review how the road was built and why it failed.

RELATED: Who's in charge of inspecting US 36?

CDOT Transportation Commission Vice Chair Rocky Scott from Colorado Springs asked what is on everyone's mind.

"It's been several years since that project has been completed and all of a sudden, we're dropping an inch an hour, what happened?" asked Scott.

The answer is "Fat Clay!" No, that's not a person.

"There's a layer of clay underneath the wall," said Laipply, "It's 'fat clay.' Fat clay really likes water and clay holds together and actually can serve with some bearing capacity, that you can set some stuff on top of when it's not wet. When it gets wet, cohesion goes away and things fail."

RELATED: What type of land is under US 36?

CDOT estimates the road has dropped 10-to-12 feet since the crack was first noticed late last week. However, CDOT is not worried about the road carrying westbound traffic.

"We are monitoring that other side. We don't anticipate, nor have we seen any settlement on that side. And it is a little bit of a separate structure from a geotechnical perspective," said Laipply. "No, there aren't any other areas that, specifically, we want to go test, but yes, we are always worried about segments all over the entire state because failures happen."

While taxpayer money is being used upfront to cover the emergency repair costs, it's not an admission that the state is at fault. Depending on the ongoing investigation into the cause, CDOT could be reimbursed.

RELATED: Who's responsible for US 36 fix? Colorado lawmakers want to find out

RELATED: CDOT may have to reimburse tolls during emergency closure of US 36

"[The transportation commission has] a contingency fund, and if you go back to the 2013 floods, a lot of times we have to front money, and we'll use the commission funds, the contingency funds, for that. And then, in the floods' case, we had a federal emergency and those funds got reimbursed," said Laipply. "As the forensics team goes, and they figure out that there are some other liabilities, then we'll address those then."


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