I-70 improvements focus on what is achievable | SummitDaily.com

I-70 improvements focus on what is achievable

It’s a pleasure to update the local communities in the Interstate 70 mountain corridor on the progress of the Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement project, which remains on track and focused on identifying doable alternatives that increase corridor capacity and address congestion using potential resources.

In its search for an approach for a unique corridor, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) team working on this project has worked closely with the local stakeholders, sharing information so those interested will not be surprised at the directions that are ultimately recommended.

We are overlaying transportation approaches to best match the growth and economic needs of the mountain corridor in 2025.

Currently, the team is preparing the Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (DPEIS), which will be released for public comment in early 2004. In that document, the team will highlight information important to making an informed decision for the mountain corridor.

The document will identify possible preferred alternatives, which will give the public and local elected officials an early opportunity to provide meaningful input.

After receiving public comment, and with further conversations with advisory committees and federal cooperating agencies, a Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement will be prepared, which will identify the preferred alternative for the mountain corridor.

This document will be presented for public comment in early 2005. Then, a record of decision will be issued, identifying the selected alternative for the corridor.

The mountain corridor stretches 160 miles, from C-470 in the metro Denver area west to Glenwood Springs.

Making a wise, informed decision is critical, because we are shaping Colorado’s long-term access to the mountains. Consider that more than 10 million travelers annually use the two national forests served by the mountain corridor, including 15 of the 26 Colorado ski resorts.

Moreover, the mountain corridor includes historic communities and landscapes dating to the state’s earliest pioneer beginnings. The approaches we are examining consider the importance of historic preservation.

While everybody’s attention is focused on the recreational traffic that results in congestion on most winter and summer weekends, the mountain corridor also serves as a vital commuter and commercial corridor linking the entire region.

Fresh food and fuel are just a few of the items that traverse this critical link in our transportation system.

Currently, five packages of alternatives are under analysis:

n No action;

n Minimal action;

n Highway;

n Transit; and

n Combinations of highway and transit.

We’re evaluating these packages for how well they alleviate congestion and address safety while balancing compatibility with the environment and respect for community values.

An important concern we must consider is whether the packages are technically feasible – and whether we can attract state, federal and private-sector financing to pay for them.

Our most recent fiscal analysis shows we can expect about $1 billion in funding for transportation improvements to the mountain corridor over the next 20 years.

CDOT is considering a number of approaches different than what has been typically tried in other mountain corridors. A few highlights include:

n Transit – Our extensive modeling shows transit options may perform strongly in the mountain corridor. A magnetic, elevated advanced guideway system similar to what the Colorado Intermountain Fixed Guideway Authority proposes remains under consideration, as well as a bus guideway system between C-470 and Summit County.

n Highways – Two highway options also remain on the table, each one addressing congestion, while minimizing the overall width of the roadway, one of many important community concerns.

n Travel demand management – Not everything under consideration involves construction. The team is looking at strategies other recreational corridors have used to manage traffic demand without major, capacity modifications.

While these strategies probably could not alleviate congestion by themselves, they show great promise in combination with other alternatives. Additionally, managing travel demand could help address issues in the near term while long-term capacity enhancements are built.

Working on the I-70 Mountain Corridor PEIS has been challenging for everybody involved, because the corridor is so complex and the need for alleviating congestion is so apparent.

In the end, we believe this collaboration between the Federal Highway Administration, CDOT, local communities and other stakeholders will result in a wise decision for the future of the corridor.

Cecelia Joy, regional planning and environmental manager for the Colorado Department of Transportation Region 1, which includes Summit County, is the project manager for the I-70 Mountain Corridor Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement.

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