You'll soon have a new lane up driving up to the mountains. Officials hope it eases your traffic headache.
Governor Jared Polis and Colorado transportation officials broke ground Thursday on the project. It's converts a shoulder lane to an express toll lane on 12 miles of westbound I-70 near Idaho Springs. The project is aimed at increasing safety and decreasing travel time between Denver and the central mountains.
"The eastbound additional lane has been a great success in reducing traffic for people returning back to the metro area after a weekend in summer or skiing. We expect similar improvements for this westbound lane," Polis said.
A private contractor will convert the shoulder to an express toll lane for use during peak travel times, officials said.
"That extra lane benefits not just those who pay for it with the toll, but it benefits everyone in the other lanes too because it's getting cars out of those other lanes into this lane," Polis said. "It will improve the flow and the speed of traffic as people access the mountain."
Another big feature of the project officials talked about at the groundbreaking Thursday morning was the ability to alert drivers in case of emergency with upgraded road technology and dynamic signs.
"This is really a big part of doing the most with what we have," Polis said. "The voters rejected two measures last year that would have funded additional projects including significant improvements in the highway I-70 corridor. Without that, our charge is to do what we can," Polis said.
The project will include resurfacing for all lanes and rockfall mitigation work.
Colorado Department of Transportation officials said they hope the expansion will reduce crashes between cars and trucks merging on to the road.
"In the event of an emergency, it frees up the frontage road to make it easier for emergency response vehicles to traverse. And we know that for the communities in this area, that is a tremendously important factor," said CDOT Executive Director Shoshana Lew.
Much of the construction can be done keeping both existing westbound lanes open, according to Lew.
"In corridors where we know that there's not a lot of alternative routes, we must be extra vigilant about making sure that we make these improvements in a way where we also protect the ability to use the asset while the construction is underway," Lew said.
Officials say construction on the project will begin Monday and end in late 2020.