Vail Pass work on I-70 taking a winter break

On the west side of Vail Pass, wildlife crossings are in the works as a part of the expansion of Interstate 70 from four to six lanes.
Summit Safe Passages/Courtesy illustration

Crews have made significant progress on the Interstate 70 West Vail Pass Auxiliary Lanes project, which has shut down for the winter.

During the shutdown, I-70 has returned to its standard configuration to avoid interfering with winter tourism travel and snow removal operations. Motorists can anticipate typical lane and shoulder widths unless there are emergency incidents. Work will resume in the spring. As the project enters its second winter shutdown, here’s a look at the work accomplished in 2022 and what’s to come next year.

Relocation of the recreation path: A nearly 2-mile section of the Vail Pass recreation path was rebuilt between mile points 185 and 187 to provide a more enjoyable recreation experience and to make room for widening eastbound I-70 to include a new auxiliary lane. The relocation will open in the spring and take users away from the interstate.

Foundation work for a new westbound bridge: Foundation work for the new westbound I-70 bridge over Polk Creek at Mile Point 185.2 began this year. Significant construction of the new structure will start in 2023. Because the new bridge is being built alongside the current bridge, crews were able to continue work into December and the impact on traffic next season should be minimal.

Both I-70 bridges in this area will ultimately be rebuilt, but starting with the westbound bridge will allow the new eastbound bridge to also shift to the north. This will reduce the length of the eastbound bridge by more than half, saving time and money. Moving the eastbound bridge to the north will also move it farther from Black Gore Creek, reducing its impact on the creek habitat.

Earthwork along westbound I-70: Crews in 2022 began grading work along the westbound lanes about three-quarters of the way up Vail Pass near Mile Point 188. This work was done in preparation for reconstructing the curve in this area to improve the roadway geometry and reduce crashes. This work will continue next spring.

Truck ramp reconstruction: A large part of the I-70 West Vail Pass Auxiliary Lanes project is dedicated to safety improvements. As part of these improvements, crews reconstructed the emergency truck ramp at Mile Point 182 to remove a sharp right curve that was difficult for truck drivers to safely navigate. The new ramp, which has already been used in emergencies, is straight to help prevent rollovers and hazardous spills. 

Highway closure system gate: Work on information technology service improvements began with utility work for a westbound highway closure system and future variable speed limit and message signs at the I-70 Mile Point 190 interchange. 

Work Resuming in 2023: Project crews will return in spring 2023 with the initial focus on completing the westbound I-70 bridge and recreation path segment at Mile Point 185.2. The new bridge is designed to have a 100-year lifespan, improved curve geometry to accommodate modern highway speeds, and three lanes and standard-width shoulders to provide more room for emergency response vehicles if the traffic lanes are blocked. 

Construction in this area also includes significant wall work and the remaining portion of the recreation path beneath the new highway bridge. Work on these improvements is scheduled to begin in 2023 and will be complete by the end of 2025, with construction pauses each winter.

Eastbound auxiliary lane construction: Construction of the eastbound I-70 auxiliary lane between Mile Points 185 and 190 is scheduled to begin in 2023. When complete, slower-moving vehicles will have a dedicated space to climb the steep grades over Vail Pass.

Wildlife crossings: Work is scheduled to begin in 2023 on the six wildlife underpasses — two for large animals and four for small to medium-sized animals. These crossings will go under I-70 between approximately Mile Points 187 and 190. Fencing is also being added along the highway between Mile Points 185 and 190 to prevent wildlife-vehicle collisions.

Vail Pass Rest Area: Parking is limited at the Vail Pass Rest Area due to the reconstruction of the rest area building and work to improve access roads and parking facilities. Construction on the new rest area facility began in May 2022 and is anticipated to be completed in October 2023.

Project information: For additional information about this project, call the project information line at 970-688-8233.

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