Colorado Department of Transportation (“CDOT”) Executive Director Don Hunt was recently interviewed on Colorado Public Radio’s Colorado Matters by Ryan Warner. Hunt discussed the latest plans for the I-70 corridor west of Denver. Convenient travel to the mountains is a major benefit to living in the Front Range, but as traffic worsens, the value of this benefit is impaired.
Hunt indicated that there was no one major fix for the traffic congestion on I-70 west of Denver that was feasible at this time. Instead, CDOT will be implementing a series of more limited changes to mollify the negative aspects of the traffic on this stretch of I-70.
One of the new projects is a “peak period shoulder lane” on the inside or left shoulder that will add an additional traffic lane to east boundI-70during peak traffic. This will be implemented initially between the intersection of U.S. 40 and I-70 (the so-called Empire Junction), at the west end, and Floyd Hill, at the east end. The plan is to impose tolls to use this lane, but with those tolls, the speeds in the shoulder lane may be significantly higher. This lane is expected to open in 2015 and is projected to save 30 minutes of travel time during peak periods.
Hunt stated that this shoulder lane could also serve as a high speed lane for buses. Buses could be more beneficial than a train system because buses can go directly to ski area and other mountain destinations without “forcing” a transfer in Summit County.
Neither the “Advanced Guideway System” or a private firm’s recent proposal would be financially feasible, Hunt said. The private firm’s proposal included multiple toll lanes and a third tunnel bore of the Eisenhower-Johnson Memorial Tunnel near Loveland Pass.
Without a major breakthrough, CDOT is left to continue to make modest changes to I-70. These changes are likely to be an improvement, but the traffic on I-70, and the steps CDOT takes to address it, will continue to be a sensitive issue for ski areas and other mountain communities west of Denver.