CDOT pledges steps to ease pain of summer construction
summit daily news
BRECKENRIDGE – Colorado Department of Transportation officials promised local residents eight months of lane closures, speed-restricted detours and traffic stops on Interstate 70 this year.
They also promised to help the Summit County community and economy plod through it.
The $100 million highway-widening project set to begin at the Twin Tunnels near Idaho Springs next month will close the primary eastbound corridor between Denver and the mountain resort communities and cause delays westbound through November.
But steps will be taken to limit the inconvenience to drivers, transportation officials told a sparse crowd at a public meeting in Breckenridge Thursday morning.
Two lanes will always be open in both directions during the weekend “rush hours” to and from the mountains. Traffic stops, though frequent, will be scheduled at off-peak times and CDOT will push regular updates on multiple platforms to help drivers avoid the worst impacts of the construction.
“We recognize that it’s one of the first (projects) out there on I-70 and it has to go well,” said Amy Ford, the communications manager for the project’s contractor at Thursday’s Breck meeting.
Ford is leading a public outreach effort in partnership with CDOT to help local businesses and agencies get information about the construction work out to visitors through the summer.
A unified public campaign along the corridor will focus on two key messages: reminding drivers the work, though inconvenient, is intended to improve traffic on the I-70 corridor and ensuring they know the mountain resort communities are still open for business.
“As we are talking to the commuters, to the travelers, to people visiting the resorts the most important piece of what we’re going to be talking about is that they can keep coming to the mountains,” Ford said. “We want to communicate what’s happening so when they’re sitting in the detour they understand the why.”
Roadwork information will be available on CDOT’s mobile app, a website dedicated to the project and an I-70 hotline as well as posted on electronic signs along the mountain corridor.
People who attended the meeting asked that transportation officials offer daily alerts on planned traffic stops and travel times as well as online postings advising alternative routes when relevant.
CDOT is also partnering with a Clear Creek County radio stations to offer regular project explanations and updates to drivers on the road.
During the eight-month construction project crews will use explosives to widen the eastbound Twin Tunnel bore to allow the highway to be expanded to three lanes through the facility.
“We’re adding a third lane from the west side of the tunnel all the way through the bottom of Floyd Hill, where we already have three lanes all the way into Denver,” CDOT engineer Jim Bemelen. “We’re chasing that three-lane section back four miles.”
The work is meant to improve traffic flows through the area, which tend to back up on Sundays during the peak seasons when many mountain visitors are returning to the Front Range.
When roads are clear of traffic, the 35 mph detour around the work will only add minutes to the eastbound trip to Denver. During heavy congestion, drivers are often unable to travel much faster than 35 mph anyway, transportation officials said. Delays will primarily be caused by blasting operations inside the tunnels, which will require regular 20-minute stops for eastbound vehicles and 30-minute stops for those on the westbound side of the highway.
The work will begin April 1 and is slated for completion in November at the earliest.
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