Gov. John Hickenlooper today joined the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) and federal, state and local officials to preview the new eastbound Interstate 70 Twin Tunnel bore near Idaho Springs.
After just eight months of rock blasting, rock bolting and paving, the third lane of eastbound I-70 between east of Idaho Springs to U.S. 6, including through the Twin Tunnels, will open to traffic next week after a 36-hour traffic switch, weather permitting.
"The I-70 mountain corridor is a critical component of our transportation system as well as Colorado's economy," Hickenlooper said. "This project serves as a stepping stone for future improvements to help ensure safe and efficient travel. We thank CDOT for working to provide practical and innovative transportation solutions for the I-70 mountain corridor."
By widening eastbound I-70 through the Twin Tunnels, CDOT will be able to build an Express Lane for eastbound peak periods that uses the shoulder lane. Using the existing wide shoulder from Empire Junction through Idaho Springs, motorists will be able to travel the peak period shoulder lane by paying a toll only during peak travel times. In return, they will have a reliable travel option with consistent speeds that will save motorists an average of 30 minutes in travel time.
The peak period shoulder lane will be constructed and open to traffic in summer 2015.
"We recognize the importance of addressing the congestion issues on the I-70 mountain corridor, but given the funding constraints we must look for solutions within our means," said CDOT Executive Director Don Hunt. "The peak period shoulder lane allows us to get the most out of our existing system while further improving safety and mobility,"
Although the new lane through the eastbound Twin Tunnel is part of the Express Lane, the fees will be waived until the peak period shoulder lane is complete and open. Meanwhile, motorists can travel the lane for free. For additional information on the peak period shoulder lane, visit the project website at http://www.coloradodot.info/projects/i-70-eastbound.
The Kraemer-Obayashi Joint Venture is the contractor for the $106 million project. Minor work off the roadway will continue next spring and the tunnel project will be completed in the spring of 2014.