Dec 31, 2020 -- Posted by : goi70

I-70 Projects Year-in-Review:

While many may look back at 2020’s massive disruptions with disdain, and while many of the I-70 Coalition’s programs experienced bumps and bruises: I-70 actually had one of its most productive years in terms of movement towards infrastructure work and the achievement of I-70’s long-term plan. Both east and westbound express lanes are nearly a reality AND the Vail Pass project experienced a major breakthrough. These initiatives are two of the most important pieces of I-70's future improvements!


Westbound Express Lanes

This year the I-70 community experienced major progress on the Westbound Mountain Express Lanes. Construction began in July 2019, and is slated to finish ahead of schedule in very early 2021. The express lane runs about 12 miles, from mile marker 231 (just west of the US-40 turn off), to just east of mile marker 242 in Idaho Springs. The completion of both eastbound and westbound managed lanes is a major milestone in I-70’s long-term congestion reduction plan. These managed lanes allow drivers to pay a user-fee for access to them. Drivers in the managed lanes experience reliable, free-flowing travel, while drivers in the two general purpose lanes also experience a reduction in overall traffic volume (and an improvement in their travel times, as well). The managed lane is slightly more narrow, though it will behave as a third general purpose lane during the Winter of 2021, as it will be free for all users while CDOT and HPTE (the state’s tolling authority) test its tolling and operations equipment.


Vail Pass

This was also a year for massive improvements on the West Vail Pass Aux Lanes project. The project (an update to the section of Vail Pass that was completed in 1979) finally moved into its first concrete stages of development. In June, CDOT was awarded a $60.7 million federal grant for the long-discussed project that will be built over the 10 mile stretch between mile marker 180 and mile marker 190. This helped secure funding for the $140.4 million Phase 1 of the project, with the $60.7 million in grants being matched with $79.7 million in CDOT state funding. The project will include a third auxiliary lane, curve reconstruction to improve traffic flow, anti-icing systems, and a wildlife underpass. Near the end of September, CDOT published the Environmental Assessment (EA) and Section 4(f) Evaluation plans and released them for public review. This public review marks movement towards a Decision Document and the final stages of a project planning process that began back in 2017. This coupled with secured funding makes this long-awaited project a very tangible reality!


Grizzly Creek Fire

As I’m sure most of us remember, I-70 experienced its longest ever closure over that stretch this past August, when it was closed for between August 10 and August 24, due to the Grizzly Creek Fire that raged through Glenwood Canyon and decimated over 32,000 acres. In the month that followed, CDOT crews worked diligently to secure canyon walls, clear rock debris, and repair fire-impacted road surface damage. At the time of the Grizzly Creek Fire, that section of I-70 was already in the midst of major repair and maintenance work. Per CDOT Region 3 Director, Michael Goolsby on September 24, “The engineering and contracting team were able to deliver impressive progress. This is a great example of partnership and leadership at its finest.” When it was all said and done, I-70 through Glenwood Canyon opened completely, furbished, and in healthy shape, by early October.  


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