Summit County leaders push CDOT to improve issues on Exits 203 and 205
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include comments from Colorado Department of Transportation officials.
Interstate 70 Exits 203 and 205 in Frisco and Silverthorne continue to be a never-ending battle for Summit County officials as they try to address concerns over gridlock traffic and congestion.
County commissioners and Silverthorne Town Council members have spoken about the issue at recent meetings, expressing a desire for something to be done at the exits in the near future.
Silverthorne council member Mike Spry said the problem of congestion around the two exits has been ongoing for over 10 years, sometimes leading to extreme traffic that causes safety hazards when emergency vehicles can’t get through. But local leaders are powerless to do anything about it without the help of the Colorado Department of Transportation.
“We keep on trying to knock on doors, ring doorbells and throw stones where we can, but it just becomes one of these things that gets lost in the bigger picture,” Spry said.
Last summer, the issues with the two exits came to a head when CDOT closed Glenwood Canyon on and off for weeks because of mudslides as a result of the Grizzly Creek Fire. The closure rerouted everyone hoping to travel through Glenwood Canyon to Exit 205 in Silverthorne, where they would then drive north on Colorado Highway 9 toward Steamboat Springs.
The closure led to extreme traffic throughout August. Town and county leaders are worried about what the next summer might bring as the burn scar on Glenwood Canyon remains susceptible to mudslides.
“Because of Glenwood Canyon post-wildfire and its instability, I fear we’re going to find ourselves in the same situation again at some point this summer,” Summit County Commissioner Tamara Pogue said. “We are continuing to point to that as a reason why these projects need to be a higher priority.”
Over the past few years, local leaders have expressed their concerns about the traffic at the exits, but not much has been done to solve the problem.
Pogue said it is an issue of priority. In the past, Summit County has had to compete with large metropolitan areas like Denver and Grand Junction, making it difficult for the smaller community’s voices to be heard.
“What’s difficult in the state funding mechanisms is that often the larger metropolitan areas receive more funding than smaller communities like ours,” Pogue said. “… The system wasn’t set up to contemplate how a community like ours would have our projects be priorities.”
Summit County is included in CDOT’s Intermountain Transportation Region Plan, which also includes Eagle, Garfield, Lake and Pitkin counties. The 2045 master plan for the region includes projects that would help solve the issue of congestion around the two exits.
One project is a potential reconstruction of the Exit 205 interchange in Silverthorne that would include the construction of a “diverging diamond interchange,” which is meant to ease the traffic flow by diverting cars in different directions without forcing them to wait at a stop light. CDOT is looking into doing a review to see if the solution would be feasable, spokeswoman Elise Thatcher said.
Spry said he’s supportive of the idea but wants to see CDOT take action to start working on it.
“Whether it’s that or something else, we need new infrastructure,” he said.
Other CDOT plans include improving the capacity of the Exit 203 interchange by adding improvements to the westbound lane.
Commissioners and Town Council members have been meeting with state representatives Bob Rankin and Julie McCluskie as well as CDOT officials to try to get the exit improvements moved up on the priority list.
Pogue said county leaders in the Intermountain Transportation Planning Region are currently coming up with their list of improvements that will be included in a $5 billion transportation funding bill passed by state legislators last year. The Summit County commissioners are advocating for local improvements during those meetings, Pogue said.
“We really do have to compete and sort of make our case in order to get on the list for prioritization for funding,” she said.
Spry said he encourages the public to reach out to state leaders like McCluskie, Rankin and Gov. Jared Polis as well as CDOT officials to push for changes.
“Public outcry creates a movement, as well,” he said. “Anything our community can do to make sure this doesn’t get pushed to the back burner is going to be helpful.”
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