Overpass work to close I-70 Wednesday, Thursday
• Closure times: two nights, from 9 p.m.-6 a.m., starting Sept. 10.
• Cost of the overpass: About $1.2 million.
• Cost of the entire spur road project at Eagle: About $20 million
• Estimated completion: Mid-December.
EAGLE — Closing an interstate can make traffic crawl and blood pressure increase. It’s something done only in emergencies or in extraordinary circumstances. One of those extraordinary circumstances will take place in Eagle this week.
Starting Wednesday night, crews will install a new pedestrian overpass over Interstate 70 at Eagle. The overpass is part of a two-year project to transform the spur road that links the interstate with the north and south parts of town. That roughly $20 million project will add four new roundabouts to the short stretch of road, an attempt to ease current and future congestion on the town’s only link to the interstate and the only Eagle River crossing for miles in any direction.
The overpass is an important part of the project designed, to get pedestrians and bicyclists off the spur road. The overpass came in pieces, which will be put in place by crane. It’s potentially dangerous work, which is why the interstate will be closed for those two nights.
Matt Figgs, the Colorado Department of Transportation’s project manager for the work, said safety for both workers and motorists is the driving force behind the closures.
“We want to be sure that no one who shouldn’t be there is in the work zone,” Figgs said.
But planning an interstate closure is different than rerouting traffic because of an accident.
Figgs said engineers and planners from the town of Eagle, the state transportation department and Flatiron Construction have spent “about a month” planning how, and when, to close the highway.
A big part of that planning involved looking at traffic counts. Mid-week, after Labor Day, looked like the best time to shut down the lanes, since traffic would be about as light as it’s ever going to be those nights.
Beyond when, plenty of work also went into making sure the right number of people are on hand to do the job.
Figgs said there will be a big crane, welders, carpenters and engineers pulling those overnight shifts to move and set more than 300 feet of bridge over an on-ramp, an off-ramp and four lanes of highway.
DETOUR ONTO HIGHWAY 6
Then there’s the matter of directing traffic around the work. Westbound traffic will be taken off the highway at Wolcott, then routed to Eagle along U.S. Highway 6. Eastbound traffic will be taken off the road at Eagle and put back on the interstate at Wolcott.
Figgs said that work has required working with state road maintenance crews and others. The variable-message signs along the interstate will inform motorists about the detours and a traffic-control crew hired by the contractor. Figgs said there will be flaggers directing traffic off the interstate, through the construction zone and back on the highway. Those flagger stations will also be lit up so people are easy to see. Beyond the flaggers, Figgs said there will be signs along Highway 6 to inform cross-country motorists they still have another few miles of detour to travel.
But how many people will use the overpass?
Charlie Wick lives in The Terrace subdivision in Eagle, south of the interstate. His office is on the north side of the highway, on Market Street, the road to City Market. Wick said before the spur road project began, he’d often walk from his home to his office, despite the relatively narrow bridge over the interstate. He plans to start again once the work is done.
Besides himself, Wick said he knows several people who live up Eby Creek, to the north of the project, and on Eby Creek Mesa, to the north and above, who often ride their bikes or walk into town.
“I would think it’s going to get used a lot,” Wick said.
Wick also praised the people running the project for the way they’ve kept traffic moving as well as possible through the work zone.
But, like others contacted for this story, Wick said he’ll be happy when the work is finished.
At Eagle Liquor Mart, also on Market Street, general manager Jeremy Cossette reflected that attitude when he said, “We just want it all done.”
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, firstname.lastname@example.org or @scottnmiller.