CLEAR CREEK COUNTY, Colorado - Transportation and construction officials overseeing the Twin Tunnels widening project told Colorado residents Wednesday night that crews will be working around the clock between April 1 and the scheduled completion in late November.
The Colorado Department of Transportation hosted a telephone town hall meeting about the project and took questions about the impacts this project is expected to have on travel along Interstate 70.
CDOT Regional Transportation Director Tony DeVito said it's about time for the project, even if it means some inconveniences along the way.
Those inconveniences will include an eastbound detour around the Twin Tunnels, diverting traffic from the interstate just west of the tunnels onto a frontage road and back onto the highway just west of Hidden Valley. The tunnel widening project required its own separate construction project, which has been going on since last year, just to prepare the detour route.
Matt Hogan, the construction manager, said most of the work that motorists have noticed up until now has been on the frontage road and not on Interstate 70.
"But that's about the change," he said.
In order to widen the tunnel, crews plan to use explosives and "state of the art" blasting techniques in four to six sequences each day. That blasting, which is scheduled to occur during the first half of the roughly eight-month construction period, will stop traffic for 20 to 30 minutes at a time during each sequence.
Many area residents on the town hall conference call were concerned about detour routes.
Summit County resident Trish, who did not give her last name, asked if there would be parameters in place so motorists could plan around the blasting delays. Trish often drives to Denver International Airport and wants to avoid sitting in traffic for up to 30 minutes, if possible.
Could CDOT tell motorists, for example, that blasting would only occur during certain times of the day on specific days of the week, she asked.
Hogan politely said that kind of notification won't be possible. The work is planned to happen 24 hours a day, and delays can be expected at any time - especially during blasting.
"It really ties to the nature of the work. Because of the variability in the rock, it's hard to set a firm schedule," Hogan said, adding that the construction schedule will likely remain "variable."
Business owners like Sally St. Clair, a Clear Creek County hotel owner, are concerned about the way this construction project will impact travel to and from the mountains, and thus tourism dollars generated here. She said her biggest concern is weekend traffic in the summertime.
Hogan assures business owners like St. Clair that weekend blasting will cease during peak travel times.
Some callers pointed critical fingers at transportation officials. One man told them the widened tunnel would already be too small to accommodate demand by the time it's finished. Another man asked why crews don't "just take the whole mountain down" (the answer to that one was for environmental reasons.)
Clear Creek County Commissioner Tim Mauck touts the long-term economic and safety benefits of the project, and told callers that with a little planning, they should be able to "withstand interruptions" throughout the construction period.
Assistant Managing Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or email@example.com.