Countdown to closure at the Twin Tunnels
Ryan Summerlin January 22, 2013
There are just 10 weeks of blasting, delays and preparation left before the Colorado Department of Transportation shutters the eastbound lanes of Interstate 70 completely for seven months while the highway is widened to three lanes.
While transportation crews are doing preparation work at the Twin Tunnels, the centerpiece of the project, CDOT PR teams are working to prepare the public for the closure.
I-70 westbound will remain open during the widening project. Eastbound traffic will be rerouted over an upgraded frontage road that runs parallel to the highway from April through October, when the project is slated for completion.
Until then, drivers will see more frequent work and occasional traffic stops at the Twin Tunnels as CDOT lays the groundwork for the widening.
Overnight lane closures will continue through April as well.
“Traffic is being reduced to one lane in each direction during off-peak hours,” CDOT spokesman Bob Wilson said. “There will be occasional traffic stops to do blasting on the outside of the tunnel. There’re a few rock outcroppings that they need to remove.”
Blasting has to be done during the day, causing 20-30 minute delays for drivers during busier times, but transportation officials said crews will avoid blasting at peak travel times, including Saturday mornings and Sunday afternoons.
Transportation officials have also launched a multi-platform public outreach effort to help both residents of and visitors to the mountain communities impacted by the work plan ahead.
The information push includes regular updates on the CDOT website, direct-delivery alerts through emails or text messages and a new smartphone application which will display up-to-date information on upcoming closures or traffic impacts.
Transportation officials are also collaborating with local towns and businesses to help get information out to the public.
“They’ve done a great job in planning this so it will be as little of an impact as possible,” Breckenridge spokeswoman Kim Dystra-DiLallo said.
But CDOT officials say they don’t expect the work to have a huge impact on drivers, like many Summit County visitors, who use the highway on days already marked by heavy traffic – particularly Sunday and holiday afternoons.
“It’s going to be a little bit slower, but it’s already slow going through the Twin Tunnels now,” Wilson said. “People can expect similar delays, maybe a little bit longer on a Sunday afternoon.”
The frontage road detour will have a 35 mph speed limit this summer, but congestion on peak travel days often keeps traffic from moving any faster than that on I-70.
Next summer’s closure will coincide with a widening and paving project on Highway 285 through Park County, the longer alternative route between the Front Range and Summit County.