I-70 ramp extension in Dowd Junction near Vail aims to reduce crashes
Area sees higher rate of accidents, was not up to state standards
EAGLEVAIL — Local resident Karen Berdoulay never liked merging onto I-70 eastbound from Highway 24 in Dowd Junction.
“I always knew it was tight,” she said.
Berdoulay is also the Colorado Department of Transportation’s resident engineer for Eagle County. So when she became privy to data from the department confirming the on-ramp was indeed too short for state standards, Berdoulay wasn’t surprised.
“The length did not meet the requirements to allow a car to accelerate enough to then merge into traffic,” she said.
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What did surprise her, however, was the fact that the on-ramp could be elongated for about $200,000.
“We always thought it would be very expensive to extend this, because that hillside is right there,” Berdoulay said. “It took us until more recently, when we looked at this much more closely, to realize it really wasn’t going to be that expensive, compared to the benefit.”
The recent development that spurred the department’s examination of the eastbound on-ramp at mile marker 171 was a regularly scheduled asphalt overlay project, the same project that was causing slow drive times between Vail and Avon over the summer.
The $10 million project is still underway and also includes guardrail upgrades, bridge repairs and erosion control work. Bob Wilson with CDOT said the work should be completed by October.
In prepping for the overlay project, Berdoulay said CDOT looked at the on-ramp at mile marker 171 to see if it met state standards.
“We saw that it did not meet standards, and it also had a slightly higher crash rate,” she said. “What’s interesting was the crashes weren’t on the ramp, they were on the highway. I think what was happening was people were merging on, starting to merge into traffic a little too quickly, everyone was trying to respond and get over, so it actually caused crashes not on the ramp, but on the highway itself.”
The ramp was 483 feet.
“We had people go out there and look at it,” Berdoulay said. “We really looked at it and realized there was an opportunity to make it better.”
The ramp extension, which is now complete, brings the total ramp length to 861 feet.
“It’s pretty close to the standard now,” Berdoulay said.
In addition to using paving funds from the overlay project to extend the ramp, CDOT was also able to dip into its safety budget to help fund the on-ramp extension.
“We think this is one area that will reduce crashes,” Berdoulay said.
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