CDOT opens I-70 westbound express lane |

CDOT opens I-70 westbound express lane

Pictured from left are Idaho Springs Mayor Michael Hillman, Colorado Department of Transportation executive Director Shoshana Lew, Federal Highway Administration division administrator John Cater, CDOT commissioner Kathy Connell, Gov. Jared Polis, regional transportation director Paul Jesaitis and Clear Creek County Commissioner Randall Wheelock as they break ground on the Westbound I-70 Mountain Express Lane Project on July 11, 2019, in Idaho Springs. Major construction of the project is now complete.
Photo by Sawyer D’Argonne /

After two years of construction, the Colorado Department of Transportation has opened the Westbound I-70 Mountain Express Lane, which runs through the mountain corridor of Interstate 70.

The new express lane opened for testing on Friday, July 30. Tolls are being waived during the testing of the system, according to a news release.

The westbound express lane spans 12 miles from the Veterans Memorial Tunnels in Idaho Springs to the US 40 interchange. The lane will only be open during peak travel periods on weekends and holidays. At other times, the lane will serve as a shoulder to the interstate.

“We converted a shoulder into a travel lane and made numerous other improvements, … and the reason for that is to give more capacity and to better manage the traffic flow,” CDOT spokesperson Tamara Rollison said.

The additional improvements Rollison referred to include the construction of four miles of retaining walls, added safety pull-out areas and stabilization of rock slopes along the interstate corridor. During the project, crews also installed 80,000 feet of conduit to house fiber for the tolling system and other communications.

Rollison said the substantial construction of the project is complete, but there may be some lane closures at night as crews do cleanup, touch up and ramp work and test the tolling equipment. She added that tolling will likely begin at the end of the year.

Rollison noted that the eastbound express lane has helped travelers save time by up to 50%, which is what’s expected for the westbound lane.

Once tolling begins, it will apply to all vehicles. Express lane tolls are collected via license plate or a driver’s ExpressToll account.

“We encourage people to use the lane,” Rollison said. “We encourage them to … give it a test drive. But what’s very important is they use the lane safely.”

To take advantage of the express lane, motorists should use the designated entrances and exits, which are marked with a dashed-yellow line. Motorists should not cross the solid-yellow line. Rollison noted that vehicles must continue to heed the speed limit while using the express lane.

CDOT’s next I-70 mountain corridor project is in the Floyd Hill area, which will include rebuilding bridges and is meant to improve movement, according to the release. The Floyd Hill project is currently in the study phase, Rollison said.

“That’s what we’re working on right now, which will dovetail very well into the express lane that we have on I-70 because … you have a lot of traffic as (I-70) enters the gateway to the Rocky Mountains,” Rollison said. “So we’re doing what we can to ease congestion, ease travel, provide more capacity (and) multimodal options, and improve safety and resiliency on that very heavily-traveled section of the corridor.”

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