All three lanes of eastbound Interstate 70 traffic through the Twin Tunnels are scheduled to open to traffic later this week, according to a governor’s office news release.
Beginning at 5 a.m. Tuesday, workers with the Kraemer-Obayashi Joint Venture — the contractor for the Twin Tunnels project — will begin realigning the traffic lanes east of Idaho Springs to U.S. Highway 6. The realignment is estimated to take 36 hours.
During the realignment, eastbound I-70 will be reduced to one lane near Idaho Springs to the Twin Tunnels. One lane of eastbound traffic along the current detour will remain open for a portion of the traffic switch, before it is realigned through the tunnels.
All three lanes of eastbound I-70 through the tunnel will open by midnight Thursday, the release stated, weather permitting.
The news couldn’t come at a better time, said Summit County assistant manager Thad Noll. The project wrapping up ahead of schedule and just in time for Summit County’s holiday rush.
“The opening of the eastbound bore is a giant deal for us, particularly since Christmas is right around the corner,” Noll said. “Christmas crowds will have a whole lot less difficulty traveling back to the Front Range because once you get to Idaho Springs it will be three lanes all the way to Denver.”
On Saturday, Summit County officials joined Gov. John Hickenlooper and Colorado Department of Transportation and federal, state and local officials for a tour of the Twin Tunnels’ renovated eastbound bore, a project more than eight months and $106 million in the making.
“The I-70 mountain corridor is a critical component of our transportation system as well as Colorado’s economy,” Hickenlooper said in the release. “This project serves as a stepping stone for future improvements to help ensure safe and efficient travel.”
Although crews will return to the Twin Tunnels in the spring to wrap up minor projects, the completion of the Twin Tunnels widening project paves the way for CDOT to construct an express lane for peak period eastbound drivers.
Using the existing wide shoulder from Empire Junction through Idaho Springs, motorists will be able to travel the peak period shoulder lane by paying a toll only during peak travel times, the release stated. The peak period shoulder is scheduled to open in summer 2015 and could save motorists an average of 30 minutes in travel time.
“We recognize the importance of addressing the congestion issues on the I-70 mountain corridor, but given the funding constraints we must look for solutions within our means,” said CDOT executive director Don Hunt in the release. “The peak period shoulder lane allows us to get the most out of our existing system while further improving safety and mobility.”
Although the new eastbound lane through the Twin Tunnels is part of the future express-lane concept, fees will be waived until the peak period shoulder lane is complete and open, the release stated. In the meantime, the lane will be free to all motorists.
For additional information on the peak period shoulder lane, visit the project website at http://www.coloradodot.info/projects/i-70-eastbound.