EAGLE COUNTY — CDOT is adding a third lane — sort of — on eastbound Interstate 70 that should help ease traffic bottlenecks.
The Peak Period Shoulder Lane project is designed to provide short-term relief for eastbound motorists when traffic congestion makes you curse Henry Ford for inventing the mass production automobile — although Ford did that because he knew guys would always need a place to sing loudly.
It will run along a 13-mile stretch of eastbound I-70 from U.S. Highway 40 at Empire Junction to the western terminus of the Twin Tunnels near Idaho Springs — the most congested stretch of the I-70 mountain corridor.
Eastbound traffic slows to a crawl on I-70 between Empire Junction and the Twin Tunnels during the peak period, often resulting in more than a 2.5 hour delay — just to travel eight miles, said CDOT’s Crystal Morgan.
It should be ready by the fall of 2015.
Mountain Corridor Constructors LLC, a partnership led by URS Corporation and supported by Lawrence Construction Company, will do the work.
What it includes
The 13-mile, $47 million project includes:
• Widening I-70 to accommodate a shoulder for a third lane.
• Upgrading the shoulder itself to accommodate heavier traffic loads.
• Replacing two bridges.
• Adding signage.
• Building new retaining walls.
• A water quality improvement project.
• Upgrading Water Wheel park in Idaho Springs.
How it’ll work
• During normal traffic the third lane will serve as a shoulder.
• Improved signage will help alert motorists when the third lane is available.
• The third lane will be tolled during operation.
What it will do
• Motorists can capitalize on the recently completed third lane through the Twin Tunnels with 12 additional miles of reliable travel.
• It provides faster speeds in all lanes (up to 45 mph in the tolled express lane and 30 in all other lanes).
• It will reduce travel times by as much as 48 percent from the Eisenhower-Johnson Memorial Tunnels to the top of Floyd Hill.
• It will reduce congestion-related crashes.
During both the summer and winter peak seasons, traffic is heaviest on weekends, when 90 percent of the traffic is recreational travelers, CDOT said.
In 2010, drivers found themselves traveling at less than 20 miles per hour 35 percent of the time on Sundays, which have the highest volume.
The additional eastbound lane will be built on the outside shoulder, with some additional pavement added at interchanges and on bridges. It would also likely include special signage, emergency pull-out areas and new lane striping.
For this project, a managed lane will operate during a peak period, and traffic utilizing that lane will be required to pay a toll.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and firstname.lastname@example.org.