CDOT unveils alternatives for I-70 | SummitDaily.com
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CDOT unveils alternatives for I-70

Jane Stebbins
It won't be long and motorists will be able to tell when CDOT sprays magnesium chloride, as the roadway changes colors and the sticky substance coats windshields and headlights.
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SUMMIT COUNTY – Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) and Federal Highway Administration officials announced their “preliminary preferred” group of alternatives for improvements on Interstate 70 Tuesday.

The nine alternatives identified in the preliminary preferred group are an array of transit options and highway improvements and combinations of both. All would be contingent on building new bores in the Eisenhower Tunnel and the Twin Tunnels in Clear Creek County.

The alternatives were culled from a list of 19 to address congestion and safety issues along the 144-mile corridor between C-470 near Golden and Glenwood Springs.

CDOT officials now will compile the draft Preliminary Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) and take public comment on it next spring.

The team will identify the preferred alternative in the final PEIS, scheduled for public release in 2005. The selected alternative will be determined after the final round of public comment and announced in the Record of Decision in late 2005 or early 2006.

“These highway and transit alternatives address the current and future needs in the corridor, and they’re the most technically and economically feasible,” said CDOT executive director Tom Norton.

“We’re now one step closer to identifying what’s required on one of Colorado’s most critical corridors. But significant work remains.”

The preferred alternatives comprise two guideway bus alternatives, three highway-widening alternatives and four highway widening alternatives that include preserving corridor segments for future transit options.

Most of the highway widening projects would take place in Clear Creek and Eagle counties, where bottlenecks frequently slow traffic to a crawl. Transit alternatives would span Clear Creek, Summit, Eagle and western Jefferson counties.

“None of that surprises me,” said Summit County Commissioner Gary Lindstrom.

“I think it’s probably acceptable in the near term. I feel the most important thing is capacity, and whatever they need to do to increase capacity is what they need to do.”

Funding, however, is critical to any construction timetables.

At best, CDOT officials said, $1 billion might be available for the I-70 mountain corridor over the next 20 years, and alternatives with cost estimates exceeding $4 billion are not considered feasible.

Other safety, mobility and environmental improvement projects currently are under consideration throughout the corridor. These smaller projects will be designed and built as funding becomes available.

The I-70 Mountain Corridor PEIS began in 2000 to study the corridor’s travel needs and to determine what alternatives would best meet the needs of the corridor through 2025.

CDOT officials eliminated various potential alternatives to get to the final prospective nine.

Eleven didn’t make the cut, primarily because they don’t effectively address congestion or are too expensive.

One of those, involving high-speed monorail or a magnetic levitation transit system, is far too expensive, Norton noted.

“Given the significant transportation needs of this corridor, we must take a realistic approach to future investments in the I-70 corridor because, unfortunately, funding is limited,” Norton said. “We have to make difficult choices.”

Alternatives CDOT eliminated included both rail and an elevated high-speed transit from C-470 to Eagle County Regional Airport, six-laning the highway and simultaneously building a high-speed rail in the same stretch, six-laning the highway and simultaneously building an advanced guideway system and preserving space for future highway improvements.

Those options range in cost from $3.3 billion to $8 billion.

“It cost $2.8 billion to build 14 miles through Glenwood Canyon, and no one said “Let’s not do it because it’s going to cost too much,'” Lindstrom said.

“My issue has been the whole CDOT planning process doesn’t have any vision. It doesn’t look to the future. This might be adequate for the short-term, but this – all the six lanes, the tunnels – is all to take care of problems today.”

Mountain communities have repeatedly asked CDOT officials to include some kind of transit option in its decision. Norton feels they have done so.

“This preliminary decision addresses affordable and reasonable alternatives and tackles congestion and safety problems,” he said. “But it also has preservation alternatives that wouldn’t preclude high-speed transit in the future, if funding of this magnitude were to be identified.”

“I think they listened to us, but I also think they’re basically saying it will cost too much and (go) too far out,” Lindstrom said.

“We need to keep it on the drawing board.”

Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 228, or

jstebbins@summitdaily.com.

Preliminary

Preferred

Group

of Alternatives

As part of each proposed

alternative, new tunnel bores would be required at the Twin Tunnels in Clear Creek County and the Eisenhower Tunnel.

Transit

n Dual-mode bus in

guideway: Guideway for dual electric- and diesel-powered bus system in the

I-70 median eastbound from Silverthorne to the

Eisenhower Tunnel and a bidirectional guideway from that tunnel to C-470. Total cost: $2.9 billion.

n Diesel bus in guideway: Same as dual mode bus in

guideway, only powered by diesel fuel. Total cost: $2.7

billion.

Highways

n Six-lane the highway by adding two 55 miles per hour lanes in Dowd Canyon in Eagle County and from the

Eisenhower Tunnel to Floyd Hill. Total cost: $1.7 billion.

n Same as above, but

engineer the new lanes to

accommodate vehicles going 65 mph. Also, two new

tunnel bores at Dowd Canyon and from the Twin Tunnels to Hidden Valley and a new eastbound bore at Floyd Hill. Total cost: $2 billion.

n Reversible high occupancy vehicle or high occupancy toll (HOV/HOT) lanes in the center of existing highway lanes. Total cost: $1.9 billion.

Combination-Preservation

n Six-lane highway and

preserve room for a future rail transit in median of I-70. Total cost: $2.4 billion.

n Six-lane highway and

preserve room for an advanced guideway system (AGS). Total cost: $2.2 billion.

n Six-lane the highway and preserve room for a dual-mode bus guideway in the highway median. Total cost: $2.2 billion.

n Six-lane the highway and preserve space for a diesel bus guideway system in the highway median. Total cost: $2.2 billion.


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