Here Are 5 Big Road Projects On CDOT’s Immediate Wishlist

October 23, 2019
Floyd Hill on Interstate 70 west of Denver on a relatively traffic-free day.Floyd Hill on Interstate 70 west of Denver on a relatively traffic-free day.Courtesy CDOT
Floyd Hill on Interstate 70 west of Denver on a relatively traffic-free day.

We’ve all had that feeling on a Saturday morning. You leave the house at 6:00 a.m., maybe stop to pick up a friend at the T-Rex lot at I-70 and C-470, then scoot up the hill past Genesee and think to yourself: “I did it. I beat I-70 traffic.” 

Reality often hits at Floyd Hill, a steep descent into Idaho Springs about 30 miles west of Denver where I-70 narrows from three westbound lanes to two. As you wait to merge, you and a few thousand others ponder whether now’s the time to move to Montana. 

A $600 million overhaul of Floyd Hill, including adding a lane and a new tunnel, has been on CDOT’s radar for more than a year. Like so many CDOT projects, it’s been delayed by a lack of funding. 

But the Floyd Hill project, and dozens of others are moving closer to reality, in part because of a billion-dollar-plus payday the legislature approved for CDOT two years ago. Seventy-five percent of that is going toward a mix of urban and rural highway projects. The remaining quarter is allocated for paving rural roads — some of which haven’t been touched in more than 40 years.

The money from Senate Bill 17-267 is being doled out over a four-year period. CDOT staff presented the Colorado Transportation Commission last week with a draft list of projects it wants to fund with the final three years’ worth of cash. Another list, of multi-modal and transit projects, is coming in November. Both will be tweaked over the next few months before the commission signs off in December.

In the meantime, here are five big projects from CDOT’s initial list:

Floyd Hill

Total estimated cost: $600 million
Requested from SB 267 funds: $100 million. 

Why CDOT says it’s needed: Thousands of cars on their way to I-70’s ski resorts and hiking trails drive through this stretch every weekend. It’s also the main east-west freight corridor in the state. CDOT Region 1 Transportation Director Paul Jesaitis told the commission that traffic is spilling over into parallel roads like U.S. 6 and others. “We're getting complaints that people are using dirt roads to bypass Interstate 70,” he said.

And there’s an added piece of urgency, Jesaitis said. An existing bridge at the bottom of the hill needs to be replaced in the very near future. But the bigger project would move the roadway entirely, rendering that bridge obsolete. 

“We're at a critical juncture here,” Jesaitis said. “Either we can put the bridge where it belongs for the future using bridge enterprise funding, or put it at the wrong spot and waste a whole lot of money."

CDOT has identified about $350 million for the project, Jesaitis said, including the $100 million from SB 267. The agency is working with the I-70 Coalition to make up the remaining $250 million. Jesaitis said ideas include toll revenue and reducing the scope of the project to the “bare minimum.”

When’s it gonna happen? In the next “couple of years,” after current major projects on I-25 and I-70 in Denver wrap up, said CDOT Executive Director Shoshana Lew at an Oct. 16 Denver Regional Council of Governments meeting.

Interstate 270

Total estimated cost: $450 million
Requested from SB 267 funds: $200 million. 

Why CDOT says it’s needed: This nine-mile freeway on the north side of downtown Denver allows access to industrial sites along that corridor and is an important bypass of I-70. Its pavement and bridges are in “terrible” shape, Jesaitis said. CDOT plans to completely rebuild the interstate, and add a toll lane to help with what’s become ever-present congestion. Toll revenue could make up the remaining balance of about $250 million, Jesaitis said, but about $950 million in improvements will be needed in the future to better connect the rebuilt I-270 to I-25, U.S. 36, and I-70.

When’s it gonna happen? Like the Floyd Hill project, Lew said the I-270 rebuild could be a couple of years out.

Federal Boulevard

Total estimated cost: $25 million
Requested from SB 267 funds: $25 million

Why CDOT says it’s needed: Federal Boulevard is West Denver’s main street, but it’s actually a state highway and thus under CDOT’s purview. It’s also deadly to pedestrians. "Federal Boulevard's had something like 25 pedestrians killed in the last three or four years. So pretty much a bloodbath,” Jesaitis said. “We really need to do something to figure out how to get the numbers of fatalities down.”

CDOT plans to invest in safety improvements, improve access for cyclists and pedestrians, and make infrastructure changes to make transit more efficient. Jesaitis said it will also look at Colfax Avenue, another urban state highway.

When’s it gonna happen? CDOT plans to tackle Federal and Colfax in a series of smaller projects, but Lew didn’t say exactly when. “We would hope to achieve impact quickly,” Lew said.

I-25 in Pueblo

Total estimated cost: $90 million
Requested from SB 267 funds: $60 million

Why CDOT says it’s needed: The agency has been planning on a complete rebuild of I-25 through the Steel City for decades. CDOT said its outdated design and deteriorating condition makes it unsafe. CDOT Region 2 Transportation Director Karen Rowe said a new interchange at U.S. 50 would be a big piece of that — if it can be pulled off.  

“The cost of the project may be higher than the funds we currently have available,” she said. “So we're doing more homework to see what that project could look like in terms of reducing scope or seeing what other funding we can get."

When’s it gonna happen? Sometime in the next several years, said CDOT spokesman Matt Inzeo.

I-70 in Summit County

Total estimated cost: $24 million
Requested from SB 267 funds: $24 million

Why CDOT says it’s needed: This eastbound stretch of I-70 in the heart of Summit County has an unusually high number of crashes and is highly congested, said CDOT Region 3 Transportation Director Michael Goolsby. The Summit Daily News described it as a twisting piece of road “riddled with potholes, cracks and exposed seams that have wreaked havoc on the suspensions of thousands of cars passing over them.”       

CDOT wants to fix those, and add a lane.

When’s it gonna happen? Sometime in the next several years, said CDOT spokesman Matt Inzeo.