There are few things more irritating than waiting in traffic just to sit in more traffic.
Although the Colorado Department of Transportation has beefed up its traffic alerts system and launched a campaign encouraging Interstate 70 drivers to avoid traveling through the mountain corridor during peak hours, there are still times in Summit County when highway and local traffic seems to crawl at a snail’s pace.
Yet, there is one intersection in particular infamously known for clogging up with traffic long before drivers get the opportunity to merge onto the parking lot that is I-70 on a Sunday afternoon.
“Our traffic occurs during peak travel times and is usually tied to recreation, like skiing,” said Bill Linfield, public works director for the town of Silverthorne. “It’s not uncommon on Sunday afternoons for travelers waiting to get on I-70 to be backed up all the way to Sixth Street.”
The problem is and always has been the stop light at the intersection of Rainbow and Wildernest drives and Blue River Parkway near the Outlets at Silverthorne, Linfield said. Left turns at that intersection are set up as a “split phase,” meaning cars traveling onto eastbound and westbound Blue River Parkway can’t do so at the same time due to poor alignment and lack of available space.
But relief and sanity are on the way, Linfield said.
Last week CDOT officials announced it awarded a contract to widen and realign the intersection to eliminate the need for a split phase and to provide travelers in all directions with more “green” time. The project is the first phase of a larger plan to completely reconstruct the I-70 interchange.
Although it won’t happen for some time, Linfield said CDOT hopes to realign traffic merging onto I-70 in a “diverging diamond” pattern to further improve traffic flows onto the highway and through town.
“CDOT has been studying improvements to I-70 for about 20 years, but it didn’t really dial into the 205 interchange until about three years ago,” Linfield said. “We’re a ways off before the interchange project, but this saves CDOT money in the short term and makes our intersection more efficient.”
Construction is scheduled to begin the Monday after Easter and continue through July 1, Linfield said. CDOT will manage the project, even though the intersection consists of town streets.
CDOT is managing the project because it owns the traffic light, Linfield said.
The intersection also provides access to Colorado Highway 9, an important CDOT highway route for travelers driving to Steamboat Springs to the north and Keystone to the south.
“The town supports CDOT’s efforts to bring much-improved traffic flow to the intersection,” said assistant town manager Ryan Hyland. “We will obviously be involved in the planning and public notification as we want to make sure the construction impacts are minimized for our residents and local businesses.”
During construction, one northbound lane of Rainbow Drive will remain open to provide access to restaurants and the outlet stores. Return traffic will be diverted down Rainbow Drive to Sixth Street, past town hall.
“It’s going to be inconvenient for what we hope is a short period of time, but what will ultimately result is a lot more efficient intersection.”