High country roadwork gets underway
The Colorado Department of Transportation has several ways to stay informed about road work throughout the state.
Perhaps the most complete source of construction sites is at http://www.cotrip.org.
The department also has Facebook and Twitter pages, and motorists can sign up for real-time alerts, also at http://www.cotrip.org.
EAGLE COUNTY — One of the oldest adages in the high country is that there are really only two seasons — winter and construction.
The 2015 construction season along the state highways in the Vail Valley is ramping up now, and there are some good-sized projects in the works on Interstate 70, U.S. Highway 6 and U.S. Highway 24. Some of those projects are expected to take a few weeks. Others will stretch through this construction season and into 2016.
One of the projects lasting a few weeks is out of the valley, at the Eisenhower Johnson Tunnels.
According to a recent release from the Colorado Department of Transportation, single-lane traffic with 20-minute delays are scheduled overnight Sundays through Thursdays starting Monday and continuing through early May to install fire suppression systems.
Traffic control begins at 8 p.m. with a full closure of one tunnel in place by 10 p.m. The tunnel will reopen by 6:30 a.m. the following morning. One bore will remain open at all times, with traffic alternating in each direction using a pilot car leading traffic through the open tunnel. U.S. 6 Loveland Pass is the alternate route.
VAIL PASS PROJECTS
Closer to home, I-70 at and near Vail Pass will be the site of a couple of projects. One will replace four culverts that channel water under the interstate. The work is expected to be done outside commuter hours, and most will take place off the roadway. Culvert work also includes replacing under-highway structures on U.S. Highway 24 near Minturn.
An improvement project at the eastbound I-70 chain-up station in Vail was originally scheduled for this year, but Martha Miller, the department of transportation’s resident engineer for this area, said that work will probably be moved to 2016 due to other work that needs to be done this year.
There are numerous bridge repair and replacement projects scheduled for the valley this year, many of which could cause some traffic delays. Work is scheduled for I-70 bridges at Avon Road, over Gore Creek in Vail and at Vail Valley Drive, as well as work on underpasses and other locations.
The biggest of the I-70 bridge projects is where the interstate crosses over U.S. Highway 6 at Eagle-Vail. The bridges — which date to the 1970s — aren’t being replaced. But one bridge at a time will be closed for work on the underside, roadway and guardrails. Interstate crossovers on both the east and west sides of the bridges are nearly complete so traffic can be switched either to the north or south side of the highway.
Another major bridge project is in Eagle, the complete replacement of the bridge over Brush Creek on U.S. Highway 6.
That bridge carries a lot of traffic, but it also dates to the 1930s. Eagle Town Manager John Stavney said it’s long past time for that bridge to go.
“If you’ve ever looked underneath it, it seems shocking that it’s still up,” Stavney said.
That project will require construction of a temporary bridge just north of the existing one.
Tracy Trulove, the department of transportation’s spokeswoman for this part of the state, said it was important to keep traffic flowing on U.S. Highway 6, since Eagle and Gypsum are the only places to cross the Eagle River in that part of the valley.
GLENWOOD CANYON PROJECT
Another significant project will take place outside of Eagle County, but it will affect both residents and travelers — continuation of a project in Glenwood Canyon.
The first phase of the project in 2014 was often delayed by weather, and delayed westbound traffic. This year’s project is on the eastbound lanes, and Trulove said the state will again run two-way traffic through the canyon.
The last time there was two-way traffic in the canyon, there were fatal accidents, all at night, and all involving alcohol. To help keep people on the proper side of the road, Trulove said the department is going to install delineators including small poles. The centerline will also have a kind of curb.
Whether going west or east, Miller said motorists this year will need to plan ahead. The trip to Denver, especially, will take more time, since there are about seven projects on the highway between Vail and Denver. Next year could be equally busy in Vail, since the chain-up station will likely be built. It’s also likely that a new underpass will be built between the main and west Vail interchanges.
“There’s a lot this year,” Miller said. “But this infrastructure needs maintenance and repair.”
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, firstname.lastname@example.org or @scottnmiller.