It’s the question on the mind of Colorado boarders and skiers who aren’t lucky enough to live west of Idaho Springs.
Interstate 70 at Floyd Hill is deep into a $700 million multi-year highway expansion project. So is ski traffic going to suck this season?
“No,” said Kurt Kionka, director of the Floyd Hill project for the Colorado Department of Transportation.
“We've designed the project in such a way … so that we're not seriously impacting traffic during those peak travel times,” he explained.
More specifically, Kionka said there will be no scheduled lane closures on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, holidays, and during peak hours during the week through the winter season. That will hold true as the project continues over the next several years, Kionka said.
Crews are currently blasting and removing loose rocks between the U.S. 6 exit at the bottom of Floyd Hill and mile marker 248 near the top to make room for the wider road. That requires occasional traffic “holds” of about 20 minutes. But those delays will be limited to daylight hours from Monday through Thursday, Kionka said. Otherwise, planned lane closures will happen overnight and during other off-peak hours, he said.
Before the pandemic, ski traffic was largely concentrated on weekends and holidays. Covid scrambled work routines, which evened out the peaks a bit, said Jeffrey Hampton, CDOT’s construction manager for the Floyd Hill project.
Now, that traffic pattern is shifting again back toward its peaky pre-pandemic form, Hampton said. Traffic typically picks up Thursday afternoons because of three-day-weekenders and then really slows down by 10 a.m. on Fridays.
“You can almost set a watch to it,” Hampton said.
But there will be *some* impacts to drivers. It is a construction site, after all.
Lanes will be narrowed and shifted as the project progresses, Kionka said. Drivers should watch their speed and be alert for construction vehicles, too, he added.
“The more single-occupancy vehicles that we can get off the road, the better it is for everybody,” Kionka said.
Frequent travelers can sign up for alerts about construction that could affect travel by texting “floydhill” to 21000.
If you want to avoid the construction or I-70 entirely, there are also plenty of ski resorts down U.S. 285. Or maybe it’s a good year for you to ditch fancy schmancy resorts altogether and try skiing the Front Range foothills instead.
Short-term pain for long-term gain, officials hope.
CDOT officials, local elected leaders, and other stakeholders hope the Floyd Hill project will allow for higher traveling speeds by easing steep grades and sharp turns, and eliminating a notorious bottleneck where the westbound highway drops from three lanes to two.
Environmental groups have argued the expansion will merely draw more motorists to the highway in the long run, eventually eliminating any time savings.
But CDOT officials point out that the new westbound lane will be a toll lane, which typically flow more freely than general purpose lanes. They’ve also added public transportation shuttles along I-70, which will be able to eventually use the new toll lanes to breeze by traffic.
“All of my members agree that it is a very necessary project,” said Margaret Bowes, director of the I-70 Coalition, an advocacy group that represents local governments, ski areas, and other I-70 corridor interests.
“It’s a huge project. It’s exciting,” she added. “It’s going to bring some really great benefits to the corridor.”
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