What CDOT is doing to try to fix I-70 travel

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Traffic Jam on I-70Colorado’s summer driving season kicks off with the Memorial Day holiday weekend. AAA Colorado estimates more than 600,000 Coloradans will travel 50 miles or more this weekend, and most will do so by car.

That means a lot of traffic, especially on I-70 through the mountains. Some of the busiest travel weekends of the year on the I-70 mountain corridor will come later in the summer, in July and August.

Meanwhile, it was a rough winter for drivers on I-70. More snow resulted in more traffic—and more traffic accidents. On Feb. 9, heavy traffic and icy roads led to numerous accidents and a four-hour delay from Silverthorne to the Eisenhower Tunnel (normally a 10-15 minute trip).

The Colorado Department of Transportation is working on some fixes that could help make travel on I-70 a little bit easier. The agency has already widened the eastbound side of the Twin Tunnels in Idaho Springs from two to three lanes, and this summer it is building a “Peak Period Shoulder Lane”--an express toll lane--from Empire to the Twin Tunnels. It will open in 2015.

CDOT says the tolled express lane will result in faster speeds (up to 45 miles per hour in the express lane and 30 in all other lanes) and reduce travel times on I-70 (by as much as 48 percent from the Eisenhower Tunel to the top of Floyd Hill for those using the express lane, according to the agency). CDOT also claims the new lane will reduce congestion-related crashes.

CDOT is also widening the westbound Twin Tunnel and hopes to add a westbound express lane in the future.

CDOT acknowledges these are short-term fixes for a problem that requires a long-term solution.

The agency is looking at high-speed rail as one option, along with public-private partnerships for other improvements, such as adding another bore to the Eisenhower Tunnel. But any long-term solution for traffic congestion on I-70 is years away.

Public-private partnerships bring up their own issues. Earlier this year, CDOT closed on a deal to contract with a private company to finish improvements to U.S. 36 between Denver and Boulder, drawing ire from some politicians and residents.

The interview with Hunt is transcribed below: