I-70 traffic to double by 2025
SUMMIT COUNTY – Four years and $20 million later, the Colorado Department of Transportation’s (CDOT) draft environmental statement for Interstate 70 improvements is up for public review.The document (PEIS) outlines nine “preferred alternatives” to improve crowded conditions on the 144-mile corridor between C-470 in Golden and Glenwood Springs.Growing populations along the Front Range have resulted in increased use of the interstate, with traffic expected to double – to 20 million vehicles through the Eisenhower Tunnel each year – by 2025.The Department of Local Affairs estimates that Front Range populations will increase by 45 percent in the next 21 years, to 5 million people. The nine counties through which those people will travel for recreation – Summit, Clear Creek, Eagle, Garfield, Gilpin, Grand, Lake, Park and Pitkin – are expected to see a 101 percent increase in population, to 340,000, by 2025.According to spokesman Bob Wilson, if no improvements were made to the corridor, weekday travel would rival that of peak weekend traffic. That would likely deter people from traveling, which could affect local businesses to the tune of $10 billion by 2035.CDOT and the Federal Highway Administration identified nine possible alternatives to improving traffic situations on the interstate. Among the criteria was a $4 billion cap CDOT placed on the project.In Summit County, copies of the draft PEIS, which is up for public comment until March 10, 2005, are available at the North Branch of the Summit County Library in Silverthorne, the U.S. Forest Service offices in Silverthorne, the main branch of the public library near Frisco and the county planning office in the County Commons building near Frisco. The document is also available at http://www.i70mtncorridor.com.The nine alternatives are divided into three categories – transit, highways and a combination of both – all of which will require drilling a third bore in the Continental Divide.The transit alternatives would put an electric and diesel-powered bus system in the eastbound median from Silverthorne to the tunnel and a guideway from the tunnel to C-470; or merely put a diesel bus in the guideway. Those alternatives would cost $3.3 million and $3.5 million, respectively.The highway alternatives involve six-laning the interstate from Dowd Canyon in Eagle County and between the Eisenhower Tunnel and Floyd Hill, with minimum travel speeds of 55 mph at a cost of $2.4 million.Another alternative would include building tunnels at Dowd Canyon, from the Twin Tunnels to Hidden Valley and eastbound at Floyd Hill.A third highway alternative would involve adding two reversible lanes in the center of the highway between the Eisenhower Tunnel and Floyd Hill, and six-laning the interstate through Dowd Canyon at a cost of $2.5 billion.The three other alternatives include six-laning the highway and preserving land in the median for a future rail system or advanced guideway system, ranging from $2.6 billion and $2.8 billion in cost.Wilson said $1.6 billion should be available for I-70 west before 2010. CDOT hasn’t ruled out tolls at the tunnel as a means to recoup some of the costs.After the comment period ends, CDOT will collect all the comments, consider which alternative would best meet the project’s needs and make a decision. The decision will be announced in late 2005 or early 2006.
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