Silverthorne officials say I-70 detour is exacerbating Exit 205 issues |

Silverthorne officials say I-70 detour is exacerbating Exit 205 issues

A semitrailer sits at the Exit 205 light waiting to turn onto the Interstate 70 eastbound on-ramp in Silverthorne on March 25. Traffic at this intersection has been exacerbated by I-70 closures in Glenwood Canyon.
Photo by Ashley Low

As the Interstate 70 closure through Glenwood Canyon hits two weeks, Silverthorne is feeling the impact of travelers detouring through the town to make their way around the closure.

Silverthorne Town Manager Ryan Hyland said the detour exacerbates the need for the Colorado Department of Transportation to put energy into reconstructing exit 205 of I-70.

“It’s kind of the straw that broke the camel’s back with respect to our community’s patience with CDOT’s 10-year delay on doing anything with 205,” Hyland said.

Hyland said the biggest impact on the town comes when folks are taking the detour east, coming down from Steamboat and Kremmling on Colorado Highway 9. Traffic has been backed up as far north as Silverthorne’s Willowbrook neighborhood — almost 3.5 miles north of the ramp — and folks cut through the Smith Ranch community, as well.

“Folks who’ve been on a couple-hour detour and have already been through Steamboat, they’re really looking forward to getting back on I-70, and then they run into a jam-up in Silverthorne,” Hyland said. “They’re not the happiest customers in the world and their experience in Silverthorne is the final delay of trying to just get to the interstate.”

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High traffic volume is commonplace in Silverthorne even without an I-70 detour going through town. Hyland said that 10 years ago, traffic would mostly be an issue during holidays and weekends. But now, it’s a consistent aspect of the town.

“At that time, we knew that the backups were going to get worse … and that’s exactly what we’ve seen come to fruition,” Hyland said. “Now we see that same level of backup all the time — not just weekends, not just holidays.”

The issue was further exacerbated when CDOT changed the traffic signal timing, according to Hyland. Previously, drivers could make a left turn onto both I-70 ramps on green but now must have a green arrow, which CDOT said was done because of safety concerns. He said the new signal timing even impacts locals heading from Dillon to Silverthorne.

CDOT did a million-dollar study in 2012 looking at the best way to flow traffic through exit 205. But since the study was done so long ago, a new study would be needed before CDOT could begin the project. A lack of funding is also a concern. The town of Silverthorne has even expressed interest in starting the project on its own.

Hyland said CDOT acknowledged the issue by creating the plan but that there has been no action since. The exit 205 project is not included in CDOT’s most recent 10-year plan, which was released in June.

A recording of a 2010 public meeting discussing possible solutions for exit 205 shows CDOT’s former Director of Project Support Scott McDaniel acknowledging the scale of the problem.

“There are a lot of times this intersection works well, but there are a lot of times that it doesn’t,” McDaniel said in the video. “We all know that if we don’t do something now, it’s just going to get worse.”

On Tuesday, Aug. 10, the federal government awarded $11.6 million of Gov. Jared Polis’ requested $116 million in emergency aid from the Federal Highway Administration to go toward Glenwood Canyon improvements on I-70, including funds to improve detour routes.

It’s not yet known how any detour funding would be spent, but CDOT spokesperson Elise Thatcher said the closures and detours have not changed CDOT’s prioritization of the exit 205 project.

“CDOT takes into account several different factors when it comes to prioritizing projects,” Thatcher said. “We’re well aware that there’s a lot of challenges with that exit and intersections nearby, which is why we did a project updating traffic signals across Summit County this year.”

Hyland said the town is setting up a meeting with the governor’s office in the coming weeks to discuss making exit 205 a priority. He said he encourages folks in the community to direct their frustrations to CDOT.

“We receive the complaints at Town Hall, and we absolutely share the frustration,” Hyland wrote in an email. “We’ve tried to push this with CDOT as much as we can, and we really need the community’s assistance to make our collective voice heard at CDOT.”

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