Study: Extra temp lane would ease ski trip traffic
DENVER, Colorado – Adding an extra, temporary eastbound lane to Interstate 70 would cut travel time from ski resorts to Denver by about half, according to the initial results of state study released Thursday.
The Colorado Department of Transportation study found that using a reversible “zipper” lane was only feasible on Sundays during the winter and would cut the drive time from Silver Plume to El Rancho from 91 minutes to 46 minutes.
The study, first reported by The Denver Post, found that borrowing that extra lane from westbound I-70 would more than double the travel time for motorists heading into the mountains from 35 minutes to 79 minutes. It found that traffic headed from the Denver area to the mountains during the summer was too heavy to use a “zipper” lane on the eastbound side.
Even though mountain-bound traffic is heavy on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning during ski season, the study found it wasn’t heavy enough for long enough periods to justify opening an extra westbound lane. It can take up to 1 1/2 hours to set up a reversible lane.
The temporary lane would run 15 miles on eastbound I-70 from west of Empire Junction and continue to Floyd Hill, and would cost between $30 and $35 million to implement.
Colorado lawmakers passed a bill this year urging CDOT to consider using a zipper lane to ease weekend backups on I-70.
The department is conducting the second phase of the study and discussing the proposal with communities along the highway. It said that won’t be done until early 2011, and the earliest the lane would be used would be the 2011-12 ski season.