Redesigned I-70 emergency truck ramp opens near Vail |

Redesigned I-70 emergency truck ramp opens near Vail

John LaConte
Vail Daily
Gov. Jared Polis, left, stands at the top of a new emergency truck ramp on Interstate 70 in East Vail on Monday, Dec. 6. The truck ramp uses a straight alignment, as opposed to the right-curving alignment formerly used on the hillside to Polis’ left.
John LaConte/Vail Daily

EAGLE — Vail Pass has a newly designed emergency exit at mile point 182, offering a straighter alignment than the previous option.

The new ramp is made of a 3-foot deep bed of rocks, which includes a 1,000 foot hazmat containment tub so spills can’t reach Gore Creek below, along with a settling basin for safe removal of any hazardous spills.

The project also added tow anchors along the ramp so a single tow operator can remove a truck more quickly.

This work was completed over a period of three months this fall and represents a significant enough achievement that Gov. Jared Polis opted to take a tour of the new ramp Monday, Dec. 6.

Colorado Department of Transportation Director Shoshana Lew spoke at the event.

“Thousands of people might drive past this emergency truck ramp each day and not give it a second thought. Hopefully, they don’t need it,” Lew said. “But for the commercial truck operators who rely on it when they do, this ramp can be a lifesaver.”

Polis touted future infrastructure work at the appearance.

“It’s also the start of so many great things to come with our state bipartisan infrastructure bill, coupled with the federal bipartisan infrastructure bill, improvements for motor carriers, improvements for commuters, improvements for tourists, both from the Front Range and from across the country and across the world,” Polis said.

Lew said the truck ramp is the first step to completing the multiyear Interstate 70 West Vail Pass Auxiliary Lanes Project. That project, which is expected to run through 2025, has a total cost of $164.2 million, according to Lew. The project is being partially funded by a $60.7 million Infrastructure for Rebuilding America grant.

“One of the things that made this grant, which we received under Gov. Polis’ leadership, so competitive from the federal perspective was we included an early-action item,” Lew said, in reference to the ramp.

The project’s end goal is to create a new lane on the interstate that is expected to dramatically reduce the amount of highway closures that occur on the current two-lane stretch of roadway. West Vail Pass was closed 1,584 hours between 2014 and 2017, with a total economic impact of $1 million per hour.

“We know how important it is to keep this highway open and moving. Whenever Vail Pass is closed for an incident, it costs a lot of money,” Polis said. “These safety improvements will reduce the cost of closures, the time in duration of closures going forward, improving the flow of traffic and making Vail Pass safer for motor carriers and for vehicle traffic.”

Kiewit Construction, the contractor on the project, also worked on I-70 through Glenwood Canyon in the 1980s.

“All of the contracts are done with competitive bids, and we’re thrilled that such great quality work was done here,“ Polis said. ”It’s going to save lives and reduce traffic.“

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