Road delays are abundant across Interstate 70, where multiple construction projects are wrapping up this fall. Expect regular lane closures through Thanksgiving, as crews wrap up work on the Mountain Express Lane west of Idaho Springs and a fire suppression system in the Eisenhower Johnson Memorial Tunnels.
“We will see traffic delays this weekend,” Colorado Department of Transportation communications director Amy Ford said. The delays may exceed 30 minutes as crew finish paving and sign installation for the new toll lane.
Once the construction work is complete, additional closures may be in order as CDOT tests the new equipment. Ford said they hope to see the entire project complete by Dec. 12, before holiday crowds make their way across the corridor.
In the meantime, expect lane closures between Georgetown and Idaho Springs each Saturday, with 30-minute delays eastbound on weekdays between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m., and 30-minute delays westbound between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.
The 13-mile shoulder lane, converted into a toll road on high-volume weekends, will guarantee a 30-minute reduction in traffic time for drivers willing to pay a toll ranging from $3 to $30. The goal is to have a rate of 750 to 900 vehicles per hour in the lane, with sliding tolls used to monitor traffic volume.
“Over the first month or so, it will be a test,” Ford said. “We will use the pricing as a way of managing how congested the lane gets.”
She added that the hope would be to reduce traffic in the regular lanes as well, if not as dramatically as in the express lane. While the maximum toll price is steep, on the weekends, about 90 percent of traffic on the I-70 corridor is comprised of recreational travellers.
“People who are in the corridor that weekend have chosen already to make an investment in recreation,” Ford said. “We’ll be curious to see where that evens itself out.”
While work to a new, $20 million fire suppression system, is nearly complete, CDOT will continue testing throughout the month of November. The system is expected to be fully functional by the end of December.
“People could expect a few more nights of closure as we do testing and training,” CDOT spokeswoman Emily Wilfong said.
One closure for testing will likely take place Sunday night, if weather complies. Staff training at the tunnels could lead to additional closures later in December.
“We don’t set a fire, but we simulate that, and see how the system works in responding and reacting,” Ford said.
The system is not designed to fully extinguish fires, but will use a linear heat detection system to locate fires and suppress them, giving crews time to respond without a greater risk of damage to the tunnel.
Once both projects are complete, Wilfong said there would be no major construction on the corridor next year, aside from a few smaller items.
“Starting next year, we won’t have any major work on the roadway,” she added. “Really, we’re going to be out of people’s hair for a while.”