An amendment authored by U.S. Rep. Jared Polis to designate Interstate 70 from Denver to Utah as a Corridor of High Priority was signed into law Friday evening as part of a five-year highway transportation bill. It’s the first long-term transportation bill to be signed into law in more than a decade.
With this congressional designation, I-70 will now be eligible for certain federal funding streams to help with maintenance and improvements on what is a notoriously-congested highway, especially during peak ski-travel times. High-priority corridors are given preferential consideration when applying for discretionary grant programs like the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) and newly-established Nationally Significant Freight and Highway Projects, as well as financing opportunities like those established under the Transportation Infrastructure and Financing Act (TIFIA).
“We all know what it’s like to sit in miles of traffic heading up to, or back from, our world-class ski areas,” Polis said in a statement. “While this amendment doesn’t fix that problem immediately, it’s an important first step in freeing up federal funds to help alleviate traffic and congestion and, hopefully, make us all a little saner on our mountain getaways.”
In September, he wrote the leaders of the House Transportation Committee outlining Colorado priorities, such as maintenance and improvement projects along I-70, in this major highway bill.
EXPECT DELAYS FOR I-70 MOUNTAIN EXPRESS LANE TESTING
A few Interstate 70 closures will be in place as crew continue work on the I-70 Mountain Express Lane between Empire and Idaho Springs.
Monday, Dec. 7, and Tuesday, Dec. 8, eastbound I-70 traffic will be moved into the two general purpose lanes (the center lane and right lane) while CDOT crews do testing and preparation work in the Express Lane. This work will include testing the overhead boards that display various toll rates — but it’s important to note that tolls will not be collected until Saturday, Dec. 12, at the earliest.
On Wednesday, Dec. 9, and Thursday, Dec. 10, there will be times each day when all eastbound I-70 traffic is moved into the inside Express Lane for further testing of the communication network. While traffic is in this single-lane configuration, eastbound drivers could experience longer travel times. Should any of the overhead message boards indicate a toll rate during this testing, drivers should disregard this as, again, no tolls will be collected until Saturday, Dec. 12, at the earliest.
Because the final lane stripes and rumble strips should be in place by early next week, as different lanes are closed, there could be times when drivers will need to cross back and forth over the solid white line delineating the Express Lane or temporarily drive over rumble strips. Throughout the testing process, there will be times when lanes are closed with no visible work being done on the roadway.
While opening the Express Lane is obviously a major milestone for the Peak Period Shoulder Lane Project, work on this project (and lane closures when necessary) will continue into 2016.
The most notable work still to be done involves the demolition of the current bridge structure over I-70 at mile point 241 in Idaho Springs. This demolition work will be done during the overnight hours after traffic is moved onto the new bridge. It will take two or three nights to remove the old bridge, and, as soon as exact dates are set for this work, stakeholders will be notified.
In conjunction with opening this new bridge, grading and paving work will need to be done at each of the permanent on-ramps and off-ramps in this interchange to provide seamless connections with the eastbound and westbound lanes of I-70. While this work is being done, there will be various ramp closures in the Exit 241 interchange along with lanes closures on I-70.
Construction activities are weather dependent and the schedule is subject to change. For additional project information, visit www.i70ppsl.com or call 303-223-6581.