Though highway crews will be rerouting, delaying and sometimes all-out stopping traffic on Interstate 70 through the better part of next year as they blast open the eastbound bore of the Twin Tunnels to widen the highway, they won't be doing it unannounced.
The Colorado Department of Transportation is developing a comprehensive public outreach plan to let drivers know that while parts of the highway are closed next summer, mountain resort towns are still open.
"It's one of those projects that we know is going to impact traffic," CDOT spokesman Bob Wilson said. "Anything we can do to minimize that pain and be very clear that the highway is open, and Summit County and the mountain communities are open for business that's the goal - to complete the work in a safe manner, but also provide people the opportunity to travel."
When the widening project begins in April, CDOT will launch a program providing drivers with daily updates on traffic delays and stops by phone, on its website, through social media, on electronic signs on the highway and through local businesses.
Transportation officials will also use a new smartphone application.
The public outreach effort will operate independently of the widening project, allowing administrators to focus on providing constant updates on construction work and traffic impacts - which will be necessary as blasting operations will often be scheduled on short notice, Wilson said.
"The idea was to have it as a standalone project that works in very close coordination with the Twin Tunnels project providing real-time information to reduce driver frustration," CDOT traffic engineer Clark Roberts said.
The transportation department is spending $100 million to add an extra eastbound lane on I-70 at the Twin Tunnels, located near Idaho Springs, approximately 35 miles west of Denver. The project will require crews to blast open the eastbound tunnel bore to accommodate the new lane, causing a full closure of the highway in one direction and temporary closures in the other.
The project is slated for completion by October 2013.
CDOT officials are and will continue working with local businesses both in Summit and Clear Creek counties to help get information out to visitors about the widening project, and explain impacts to summer recreation around the Twin Tunnels.
The project will prevent rafting companies as well as fishermen from using Clear Creek during blasting operations, for example.
"They've done a good job of communicating with us with respect to ways we can communicate with our customers," said Clear Creek Rafting co-owner Dale Drake, who said his business will be heavily impacted by the road work. "We want to keep them informed, give the appropriate information and let them know that yes, it's going to be an impact on their travel and it's not by any means closing down Clear Creek County or Summit County."
Part of CDOT's public outreach plan includes notepads, which will feature a general overview of the project as well as information on where to find up-to-date warnings on upcoming traffic impacts and closures. The notepads will be provided to businesses, so employees can tear off pages for customers.