Polis visits East Vail to attend I-70 emergency truck ramp ribbon cutting event
Vail Pass has a newly designed emergency exit at mile point 182, offering a straighter alignment than the previous option.
The new ramp is made of a 3-foot deep bed of rocks which includes a 1,000 foot hazmat containment tub so spills can’t reach Gore Creek below, along with a settling basin for safe removal of any hazardous spills.
The project also added tow anchors along the ramp so a single tow operator can remove a truck more quickly.
This work was completed over a period of three months this fall, a significant enough achievement that Gov. Jared Polis opted to take a tour of the new ramp Monday and cut a ribbon to signify that it is now ready for runaway trucks.
Colorado Department of Transportation Director Shoshona Lew began Monday’s event by acknowledging that a ribbon cutting for a runaway truck ramp is an unusual event.
“Thousands of people might drive past this emergency truck ramp each day and not give it a second thought; hopefully they don’t need it,” Lew said. “But for the commercial truck operators who rely on it when they do, this ramp can be a lifesaver.”
Polis said the event was about more than just the completion of the truck ramp.
“It’s also the start of so many great things to come with our state bipartisan infrastructure bill coupled with the federal bipartisan infrastructure bill, improvements for motor carriers, improvements for commuters, improvements for tourists, both from the Front Range and from across the country and across the world,” Polis said.
Lew said the truck ramp is the first step to completing the multi-year Interstate 70 West Vail Pass Auxiliary Lanes Project. That project is expected to run through 2025; the project webpage lists the total cost at $140.4 million, but Lew, on Monday, said the cost will be $164.2 million. The project is being partially funded by a $60.7 million Infrastructure for Rebuilding America grant.
“One of the things that made this grant, which we received under Gov. Polis’ leadership, so competitive, from the federal perspective, was we include an early action item,” Lew said, in reference to the ramp.
The project’s end goal is to create a new lane on the interstate that is expected to dramatically reduce the amount of highway closures that occur on the current two-lane stretch of roadway. West Vail Pass was closed 1,584 hours between 2014 and 2017, with a total economic impact of $1 million per hour.
“We know how important it is to keep this highway open and moving. Whenever Vail Pass is closed for an incident, it costs a lot of money,” Polis said. “These safety improvements will reduce the cost of closures, the time in duration of closures going forward, improving the flow of traffic and making Vail Pass safer for motor carriers and for vehicle traffic.”
Kiewit Construction, the contractor on the project, also worked on I-70 through Glenwood Canyon in the 1980s.
“All of the contracts are done with competitive bids, and we’re thrilled that such great quality work was done here. It’s going to save lives and reduce traffic,“ Polis said.