Westbound I-70 Tunnel blasting to cause delays through spring, summer | SkyHiNews.com

Westbound I-70 Tunnel blasting to cause delays through spring, summer

Work on the westbound Twin Tunnels expansion project is under way, and drivers can expect more delays this summer as the Colorado Department of Transportation works to complete its latest attempt to alleviate traffic congestion on the I-70 mountain corridor. The project follows the recent expansion of the eastbound tunnel and will help CDOT to accommodate future expansions of the I-70 mountain corridor. Crews will be blasting the inside of the tunnel as well as the rock faces at the entrance and exit of the tunnel to allow for the expansion. Off-peak closures of the roadway will be implemented in the coming days, as crews work to divert westbound traffic through the recently completed eastbound tunnel and move eastbound traffic onto the detour route around the tunnels. As the project gets into full swing later in March, traffic delays will be put into place to halt traffic while crews blast the rock faces. Traffic will then be escorted through the tunnel to ensure public and worker safety. Traffic delays could last anywhere from 15 minutes to 30 minutes during March. April is when CDOT will begin the major blasting operations that will stop traffic at 45-minute intervals, meaning traffic will be stopped both directions for up to 30 minutes while blasting is completed, then traffic will be moved through the tunnel for 45 minutes before being stopped for another 30 minutes. The rock blasting on the west side of the tunnel will take about three months to complete, said Matt Hogan, project manager for Kraemer/Obayashi, during a March 13 telephone town hall meeting. And blasting on the east side will take about five months to complete. Kraemer/Obayashi was the contracting team that completed the work on the eastbound twin tunnel and was selected to complete the work on the westbound tunnel as well. All blasting work will run concurrently and will be completed during the overnight and early morning hours when possible, though the blasting on the rock faces on the outside of the tunnel will need to be completed during the daytime in order to comply with federal law and safety standards, Hogan said. CDOT officials have said they will not be completing blasting work during peak traffic times, including Friday afternoons. During the telephone town hall meeting, members of the public voiced concerns and questions about the project, including concerns about the timing of the project and the fact the project was started while ski traffic still congests the highway. CDOT officials cited wanting to make sure they had enough time to complete the work before the weather hindered their ability later on in the year. The project is being completed following completion of the eastbound Twin Tunnel because CDOT plans to save $5 to $7 million by not having to move the equipment, resources, and detour that are already in place. While CDOT does not have immediate plans to add an extra lane of traffic through the tunnels, widening the tunnels should improve the flow of traffic as motorists will be less likely to slow down when approaching the tunnels. Reid Tulley can be reached at 970-887-3334

Early-morning Interstate 70 drivers can expect closures this week

The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) will be stopping traffic at the Eisenhower/Johnson Tunnels (EJMT) this week for the installation of new overhead electronic signs. Closures are as follows: Tuesday, June 11 Westbound I-70: All traffic stopped from 3 a.m. until 4:30 a.m.; Eastbound I-70; All traffic stopped from 4:30 a.m. until 6 a.m. Wstbound I-70: Alternating lane closures through the tunnel from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m; Eastbound I-70: Alternating lane closures through the tunnel from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. Thursday, June 13 Westbound I-70: All traffic stopped from 3 a.m. until 3:30 a.m.; Westbound I-70: All traffic stopped from 4 a.m. until 4:30 a.m. Eastbound I-70: All traffic stopped 5 a.m. to 5:30 a.m.; Eastbound I-70: All traffic stopped 6 a.m. to 6:30 a.m. If necessary: westbound I-70: Alternating lane closures through the tunnel from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. Eastbound I-70: Alternating lane closures through the tunnel from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. U.S. 6 over Loveland Pass is the alternate route while traffic is stopped at the EJMT. Weekly lane closure information about this and other projects is available at http://www.coloradodot.info/travel/scheduled-lane-closures.html or by calling 511.

Eastbound Twin Tunnels traffic switches to final alignment

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. All lanes of eastbound I-70 through the Twin Tunnels will be placed in final alignment this week, the week of Dec. 9, weather permitting. The traffic realignment was scheduled to begin 5 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 10, and will continue until midnight on Thursday, Dec. 12, during which eastbound I-70 will be reduced to one lane. All three lanes of eastbound I-70 through the tunnel will open by midnight on Dec.12. For updates on this project, visit http://www.coloradodot.info/projects/i70twintunnels. 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.

CDOT puts pacing program in gear on I-70 mountain corridor

It seems almost counterintuitive: slowing down cars to speed up traffic. But that is the plan the Colorado Department of Transportation put into action Sunday starting up its new pacing program on one of the first peak ski weekends of the season. CDOT launched the program officially for the first time Sunday, controlling traffic speeds through the frequently congested Interstate 70 mountain corridor from Silverthorne all the way to Floyd Hill, where the highway widens to three lanes. Results of several tests of the program indicate keeping cars moving at a slow, but steady speed on peak Sunday afternoons prevents backups and actually shaves minutes off the drive time, CDOT officials said. The pacing program, also called rolling speed harmonization got under way just after 11 a.m. Sunday as traffic hit 1,900 cars per hour through the tunnel and ran 12 miles further than the most recent trial, which tested the program through Empire Junction. “Once we removed ourselves the last time, when we just went to Empire, that’s when we started seeing … traffic slow down significantly,” Wilson said. “So the decision was made to go further with this and we’d probably maintain a more harmonized speed all the way to the bottom of Floyd Hill.” How to pace a packed highway A total of 24 law-enforcement officers in marked patrol vehicles from the Silverthorne Police Department, Colorado State Patrol and Clear Creek county participated in the pacing Sunday. Authorities split the 39-mile corridor into short sections, with patrol cars from the proper jurisdiction pulling in front of traffic every few minutes, lights activated, and controlling speeds. CDOT officials compare the process to draining water through a drain or funnel. If poured too quickly, a large quantity of water will get backed up and take time to drain, but if poured slowly, the water will flow through smoothly. Pacing is only really effective, however, when traffic volumes are at approximately 1,900-2,300 cars per hour through the tunnel. On some Sunday afternoons, traffic returning to Denver can get 3,000 cars per hour through the corridor. CDOT officials say they are constantly reviewing the process to ensure it is working effectively. To run the pacing program for a single Sunday afternoon costs the transportation department between $4,500-$5,000. CDOT pays for off-duty law-enforcement officers to run the pacing operation and for the patrol vehicles used for the program. The speed harmonization program was originally envisioned as a way of reducing metering on I-70. Metering causes cars to be stopped for up to 20 minutes on the west side of the Eisenhower Tunnel while traffic filters through. It is used to prevent gridlock inside the tunnel, which would block first responders’ access in the event of an emergency. “The traveling public is not real fond of metering and stops,” Wilson said. “So if we can reduce that somewhat, then I think that’s a win for everybody.” Pacing is expected to reduce, but not eliminate, metering this season. The pacing program was also intended to keep traffic flowing smoothly, though slowly, on the 10-mile incline from S’thorne to the tunnel, where the stop-and-go effect causes rear-end accidents and cars to get stuck on the often icy, slick or snowpacked highway. The pacing program will continue to run on eastbound I-70 on Sunday afternoons and some holidays as needed through March or April, CDOT officials said.

Eisenhower Tunnel traffic down in 2010

Fewer vehicles used Interstate 70 through the Eisenhower/Johnson Memorial Tunnels in 2010 than in 2009, the second time the traffic through the tunnels has declined in the last three years, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation. The count for 2010 was 11,391,704 vehicles, down from 2009 by 343,658 vehicles or a 2.9 percent. In 2008, traffic dropped from 2007 by nearly 225,000 vehicles. In 2009, tunnel traffic increased by 184,761 trips, to 11,735,362, CDOT said. Tunnel supervisor Mike Salamon said some of the decreased traffic may be due to carpooling. Read more: Eisenhower Tunnel traffic down in 2010 – The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_17000014#ixzz1A0lX9e1N

Glenwood Canyon daytime closure Tuesday

The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) will move forward with a full closure of I-70 in Glenwood Canyon tomorrow, Tuesday, March 8. Daytime closure will be from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m from exit 116 (Glenwood Springs) to exit 133 (Dotsero). Weather permitting, crews are planning to utilize a helicopter to put rockfall netting in place on the slope where the original slide occurred. The construction team will also take the opportunity to continue road repairs on both the westbound and eastbound decks. Safety closures of the Hanging Lake, Grizzly Creek and Shoshone rest areas remain in effect while traffic is in the head-to-head configuration. Bair Ranch (on the east side) and No Name (west side) rest areas will remain open. The Glenwood Canyon Bike Path remains closed as well. (Please note, local traffic coming from the west can travel as far as No Name; local traffic from the east can travel as far as Bair Ranch during this daytime closure.) ALTERNATE ROUTES/TRAFFIC IMPACTS: Front Range motorists/Summit County/westbound motorists CO 9 (Silverthorne) to US 40 (Steamboat Springs) west on US 40 (Craig) south to CO 13 (Rifle) Eagle County/westbound motorists CO 131 at Wolcott to Steamboat Springs, west on US 40 to Craig, then south on CO 13 to Rifle and back to I-70. This is a 203-mile alternate route that will take about three hours and 50 minutes to travel. This detour adds 146 miles and about three hours to a regular trip from Wolcott to Rifle on I-70, which is 67 miles or about 45 minutes. South alternate route Uses US 50. Access to US 50 is available via Grand Junction for eastbound drivers and for westbound drivers by way of US 24/285 through the Salida area from the Front Range. (Please note, there is construction on US 24 over Trout Creek Pass east of Johnson Village in Chaffee County into early March; some blasting and up to 30-minute delays may be encountered.)

Edwin C. Johnson Tunnel on I-70 turns 30

GEORGETOWN, Colo. (AP) – Most people know it as the eastbound bore of the Eisenhower Tunnel on Interstate 70. But its official name is the Edwin C. Johnson Tunnel, and it turned 30 years old Monday. The 1.7-mile-long tunnel at 11,112 feet opened to I-70 traffic on Dec. 21, 1979. The tunnel takes travelers under the Continental Divide, letting them bypass a 9.5-mile drive on U.S. 6 over Loveland Pass. Before the Johnson Tunnel opened, a single lane of traffic in each direction went through the Eisenhower bore. In 30 years, more than 125 million vehicles have traveled through the Johnson Tunnel. It is named for Edwin C. Johnson, a former Colorado governor, lieutenant governor, state legislator and U.S. senator.

Mixed reports for Thanksgiving weekend traffic in Ski Country

Even with packed main streets and longer lines at the chairlifts, Thanksgiving traffic through the Eisenhower/Johnson tunnels was the lowest it’s been in six years, said Bob Wilson, Colorado Department of Transportation spokesman. At 163,653 total eastbound and westbound travelers from Wednesday through Sunday this year, the traffic was about 10,500 less than the next slowest holiday weekend in 2008. This year was about 38,000 less than the 2006 traffic, when 201,887 travelers passed through the tunnels. Traffic peaked at 39,532 total westbound and eastbound traffic on Saturday, Wilson said. That was the same day eastbound traffic was backed up east of Idaho Springs to the Summit County side of the Johnson Tunnel. Wilson said a three-car accident near Bakerville at about 3 p.m. Saturday began a gridlock that forced tunnel operators to begin metering traffic, or letting vehicles pass through in intervals, to prevent accidents and the ability to get emergency vehicles into the tunnels. The metering continued for about three hours, with five stops performed. Generally, the daily numbers reflect traffic coming into the High Country and returning either the same day or a few days later, Wilson said. He explained that the westbound numbers were higher on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. On Saturday and Sunday, more eastbound traffic was recorded. Thanksgiving weekend doesn’t generally reflect the highest numbers of travelers, Wilson said. In July and August, weekend traffic can approach or exceed 50,000, as it can on busy ski times such as Christmas, President’s Day and at times during spring break. Thanksgiving weekend not a good indicator of destination travelers Ralf Garrison, owner and operator of the Mountain Travel Research Program, or MTRiP, said the same is true for destination travelers. Thanksgiving weekend traffic in the resort communities is generally more dependent on good snow drawing local and regional crowds, he said, while destination guests are more likely to book a reservation in the later season. That said, Garrison relayed information that showed reservations for November were up 15 percent as of the end of October, which bodes well for the rest of the season. “That’s prior to the snow gods giving us a break,” he said. Reservations for the entire winter season were up 3 percent as of Oct. 31, Garrison added, and said the rate of reservations in October was up 10 percent over last year. “All of these show a positive trend,” he said, adding that he awaits November’s numbers with interest and hope for more of a boost in response to the viral nature of good snow reports. Loveland, A-Basin ski traffic was up In terms of ski traffic, Front Range and Denver skiers and riders may have made up the majority of increased crowds at reporting ski areas. With vastly increased available terrain over last Thanksgiving, local areas such as Loveland and Arapahoe Basin saw more visitors this holiday than last year. John Sellers, spokesman for Loveland Ski Area, said open terrain acreage sat at 726 this year versus 186 acres last season – a 290 percent increase. He was unable to provide the exact increase in skier visits, but said Friday and Saturday numbers were significantly higher than the last two seasons. “Last year, we were way down in terrain and our numbers reflected that,” Sellers said. “This year, our terrain is close to what it was two seasons ago, but we did see a significant increase in visits over that season.” Arapahoe Basin spokeswoman Kimberly Trembearth said the Basin also saw a growth in skiers and riders during Thanksgiving week as compared to the same week last season, but couldn’t provide specific percentages. Like Sellers, she attributed it to the early season snowfall and the amount of terrain open. Anecdotally speaking, officials at Keystone Resort and Breckenridge Ski Resort said Front Range and Denver guests were “up earlier than normal,” Keystone spokesman Ryan Whaley said, adding that specific numbers are to be released in the quarterly investor’s report on Dec. 7. “The message was well-received in the Front Range and Denver that the ski areas are getting a lot of snow,” Whaley said. SDN reporter Janice Kurbjun can be contacted at (970) 668-4630 or at jkurbjun@summitdaily.com.

$60 million approved for Twin Tunnels widening on I-70

BRECKENRIDGE – The $60 million widening of the eastbound Twin Tunnels near Idaho Springs is a go, after members of the Colorado Transportation Commission approved a plan to fund the project along with several others Thursday. The budget supplement approved by a unanimous vote distributes $222 million in found dollars statewide, furnishing Summit County’s CDOT region 1 with $76 million for the Twin Tunnels project, surface treatment work and other regional priorities. A series of projects planned for Highway 9 are on CDOT’s radar for the $5 million allocated to region 1 priorities, but they are not the only ones, officials said. “For my region, there are different projects that have been in need,” Region 1 director Tony DeVito said. “Obviously I’m going to hear from Summit County about projects that are on the shelf, like State Highway 9. It’s not enough to do Hwy. 9.” The Hwy. 9 projects, amounting to a total estimated cost of $20 million, began with four-laning work last year. Proposals on the road include new roundabouts at Fairview and Four-O’clock Road, widening to four lanes between Tiger Road and Agape Church and a study of complete realignment of the road between Summit High School and Summit Medical Center. Just completing the road widening is expected to cost $7 million. Projects on a corridor of Highway 85 between Highlands Ranch and Castle Rock, Highway 119 and U.S. 285 are also in line for the limited priority funding in Region 1. “This is where every everybody starts to compete a little bit,” DeVito said. A decision on how to spend the $5 million will likely be made next spring following meetings with stakeholders, DeVito said. Region 1 will also split a $2 million allocation for beetle-kill tree removal with Region 3. Unexpected funds Amid severe funding shortages, CDOT found itself with an unexpected $222 million in the bank earlier this year, pulled together from various state and federal funding sources. The budget supplement approved Thursday by the transportation commission distributes that money among the six CDOT regions, funding a $31 million Interstate 25 project, the Twin Tunnels widening, surface treatment efforts, specific regional priorities and sets aside smaller dollar amounts for road equipment and rockfall mitigation. “We’re very fortunate Congress extended our current federal funding levels,” CDOT director Don Hunt said. “To be able to bring an additional $220 million into the economy in the next 12 months is a huge victory for us. As we operate in these difficult times it’s also challenging to do the right thing. It’s hard to make those decisions.” Region 1, which includes Summit County, will get 35 percent of the total funding, the biggest allocation among the six regions, most of which will be used to fund the Twin Tunnels project. The two-lane shoulderless Twin Tunnels form a bottleneck just east of Idaho Springs on the Interstate 70 mountain corridor that frequently slows eastbound traffic returning to Denver from the mountains on Sunday afternoons during peak seasons. The widening project will increase the size of the eastbound bore, allowing the road to be expanded to three lanes through to the base of Floyd Hill. The project would also include smoothing sharp curves in the area, which pose a hazard for heavy commercial vehicles and tend to slow down traffic.

Forest closure near Winter Park shrinks

Due to the quick work of contractors and compliance from the public, the forest closure west of Vasquez Road to the western boundary of the Fraser Experimental Forest will be lifted ahead of schedule on Saturday, Sept. 29. Several roads will remain closed while the final work is completed including: Leland Creek (FSR 159) from St. Louis Creek Road east to the Fraser Experimental Forest boundary and St. Louis Creek Road from the Leland Creek Trailhead south. Flume Trail, Fool Creek Road (FSR 162), King Creek Road (FSR 163), and Byers Peak Road (FSR 164) are also included in this closure. The closure area is expected to shrink further next week as work wraps up on Leland. The reduced closure that goes into effect on Saturday includes roadways plus 300 feet on either side of the road. Tunnel Hill The Tunnel Hill Fuels project began Sept. 22. This project is creating a fire break between Winter Park Resort, the town, and the National Forest. Watch for delays along Tunnel Hill Road and intermittent closures along several trails in the area, including Ice Hill, Serenity and Lower Cherokee. Backcountry travel through active units in this area will be extremely hazardous as trees are being felled throughout the interior as well as along trails and roads. For more information visit: http://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/arp/news-events. Grand Lake area As of Monday, Sept. 24, Stillwater Road (FSR 123) has reopened from Idleglen to Colo. Hwy 125. Effective Monday, Oct. 1, Little Gravel Mountain Road (FSR 190.1) will be closed at the intersection with FSR 123 during the replacement of the existing Trail Creek culvert with an open bottom arch. The new structure will remove a barrier to the passage of fish and other aquatic organisms. The closure is expected to last approximately two weeks. No traffic will be allowed through the closure; however ATVs and motorcycles will be able to cross Trail Creek at a ford approximately one-quarter mile downstream. Kauffman Creek Road (FSR 121.1) is closed for the season due to road damage and multiple contractors working in the area. Backcountry travel is allowed through this area so long as travelers remain more than 300 yards from operating machinery and chainsaws, and keep camps and parked vehicles out of the area.