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

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 to host phone conference regarding Twin Tunnels expansion

CDOT will be hosting a Telephone Town Hall regarding the westbound I-70 Twin Tunnels design and construction project at 7 p.m. on Thursday, March 13. The telephone conference will give interested citizens a chance to learn more about the project, project dates, and how the project differs from the widening of the eastbound Twin Tunnels. The project seeks to widen the westbound Twin Tunnels to allow for future expansions of the highway, however the project will not add a third lane to westbound I-70. Impacts to I-70 travellers will be greater with the westbound Twin Tunnels expansion than with the eastbound project that took place last year because, unlike the eastbound tunnel expansion, this project will involve blasting work outside of the tunnel to remove portions of the rock face walls above both ends of the tunnel. Registered voters in Grand County should automatically receive calls inviting them to participate in the discussion, though those who don't receive a call but wish to participate can call 877-229-8493 and enter the access code 111457. For more information, call CDOT's information hotline at 303-327-4034 or visit the project website at coloradodot.info/projects/i70twintunnels, or contact CDOT Office of Communications at 303-757-9228.

Traffic slows through I-70 Twin Tunnels

Daytime lane closures continue next week at the Twin Tunnels on Interstate 70 at the east end of Idaho Springs for electrical and concrete wall construction.Preparatory blasting also is scheduled to begin next week and continue about every three days. Blast days and times will not be available until the day prior to, or the day of, the blasting operation and will be provided by calling the project hotline at (303) 327-4034 or by checking one of the sources listed below.A 35 mph is in effect while the following lane closures are in place: Monday, February 4•6 a.m. to 3 p.m. – Right lane closed eastbound•10 a.m. to 5 p.m. – Left lane closed westbound•7 a.m. to 5 p.m. – left lane closed eastbound and westbound (This closure is at the west end of Idaho Springs)Tuesday, February 5 •6 a.m. to 3 p.m. – Right lane closed eastbound•11 a.m. to 5 p.m. – Left lane closed westbound•7 a.m. to 5 p.m. – left lane closed eastbound & westbound (This closure is at the west end of Idaho SpringsWednesday, February 6•6 a.m. to 3 p.m. – Right lane closed eastbound•Thursday, February 7•6 a.m. to 3 p.m. – Right lane closed eastbound•Friday, February 8•6 a.m. to 1 p.m. – Right lane closed eastbound In addition, the Colorado Department of Transportation is closing the exit ramp from eastbound Interstate 70 to Hidden Valley (Central City Parkway – Exit 243) on Monday morning, Feb. 11, for frontage road bridge construction. The ramp is scheduled to remain closed for about one month.A temporary structure is needed across Clear Creek to connect the frontage road (CR 314) to eastbound I-70. The road, which is scheduled to open to traffic on Monday, April 1, will be used as the eastbound I-70 detour route while the eastbound Twin Tunnel is widened to three lanes. The detour route while the ramp is closed is eastbound I-70 to the top of Floyd Hill – Beaver Brook, Exit 247 – turning around and then back west on I-70 to Hidden Valley. Adding a third lane to eastbound I-70 from east Idaho Springs to the bottom of Floyd Hill is part of CDOT’s strategy at reducing congestion along one of the state’s busiest corridors, which, in turn, will improve gas mileage and air quality. For more information: http://www.coloradodot.info.

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.

Expert team to tackle Twin Tunnels bottleneck near Idaho Springs

BRECKENRIDGE – In the hope a fresh set of eyes will yield new ideas, the Colorado Department of Transportation is inviting a team of experts to examine and offer suggestions for the Twin Tunnels, seen by many as a key problem area along the Interstate 70 mountain corridor. “The Twin Tunnels really becomes the choke point,” CDOT Region 1 director Tony DeVito said in a joint meeting with the Summit Board of County Commissioners Tuesday. “This may be an opportunity to get a new look at this. When we do these kind of value engineering teams, we’ve had a lot of success.” The team of 12 industry experts will meet with local officials Monday to discuss the problem and desired outcomes for the tunnels. CDOT will then give the team the next four days to look at the situation and, ultimately, report back with possible alternatives to address the problems. DeVito said the hope is that the team members, who will be paid a $1,000 stipend for the week, will offer a new perspective on a situation CDOT engineers and local officials have grappled with for years. The Twin Tunnels form a shoulderless, two-lane bottleneck slowing traffic between Idaho Springs and Floyd Hill. Officials in Clear Creek County, who call the Tunnels a key “pinch point” for I-70 traffic, say they’re supportive of the decision to bring in the team of experts. “I think it has a very good chance to lead to the first real project on I-70,” Clear Creek County Commissioner Kevin O’Malley said. “It’s the first step in really doing something.” CDOT officials said similar special expert teams have examined similar corridors with successful results, although such teams are usually brought in later in the design process and are generally used for bigger projects. CDOT has introduced a few short-term and relatively low-cost solutions to help alleviate peak-season traffic on the corridor, including a hard-shoulder alternative, which would allow shoulder space to be used for a third eastbound lane on peak-travel days. But the hard-shoulder proposal would only be effective down to the Twin Tunnels, where, without excess shoulder space available, traffic would be reduced back to two lanes. “You are not really solving anything until you solve that bottleneck,” O’Malley said. There are currently no proposed solutions for the Twin Tunnels. “We’re hoping that there’s a unified vision of … what’s going to make sense so we can start exploring some of these concepts,” CDOT spokeswoman Stacey Stegman said. “We know that something has got to give on I-70. It’s just very difficult balancing so many ideas of what that is.” To alleviate traffic, CDOT is also exploring the option of a removable “zipper” lane that would reverse traffic on one westbound lane on key Sunday afternoons when eastbound traffic is heaviest. Costing at least $23 million, the zipper lane would cause significant safety risks and would be inaccessible to emergency vehicles. It is also expected to double westbound travel times when in use.

I-70 mountain corridor travel increased in 2013

COLORADO — Travel along the Interstate 70 Mountain Corridor saw an overall increase in 2013 with November and December counts through the Eisenhower Johnson Memorial Tunnel up by more than 73,550 vehicles. Total vehicles traveling through the tunnel in 2013 were 10.89 million compared to 10.73 million overall motorists in 2012. The widening of the eastbound lanes at Twin Tunnels near Idaho Springs has brought about congestion relief in the area, with the upcoming Peak Period Shoulder Lanes project and others being proposed along the corridor, motorists will see additional relief and shortened travel times in both directions on I-70. Peak travel months through the Eisenhower Tunnel in 2012 and 2013 were March, July and August. March 2013 saw about 1.03 million motorists, that same month in 2012, 1.01 million vehicles traveled through. In July and August 2013, there was a 40,916 increase from 2012. The New Year's holiday always brings heavy traffic counts to the I-70 mountain corridor. This year was no different. With two major holidays falling on two consecutive Wednesdays, high traffic numbers persisted for a two week span leading up to Christmas and through Sunday, Jan. 4. Updated road conditions are available at http://www.cotrip.org or by calling 511 from anywhere in the state.

Feds to give I-70 preferred alternative the green light

The Federal Highway Administration is expected to deliver approval June 16 on a long-term improvement plan for the Interstate 70 mountain corridor that could include widening the highway to six lanes in places and, eventually, a high-speed rail line connecting Summit County and other mountain communities with the Front Range. The record of decision, set to be signed in support of the stakeholder-endorsed preferred alternative next month, will conclude a programmatic environmental impact study (PEIS) process more than a decade in the making. The preferred alternative, one of several options presented in the PEIS, describes projects aimed at reducing traffic through the year 2050. “This is step one, and this is a big one,” Colorado Department of Transportation spokesman Bob Wilson said. “It allows forward movement with improvements to I-70.” With the preferred alternative approved, the CDOT will begin more specified and targeted studies on individual projects before seeking funding to actually start work on those projects. Central to the preferred alternative is the Advanced Guideway System, a high-speed rail intended to reduce traffic on the highway by providing alternate transportation service between Denver and mountain ski communities. Future studies will need to examine the feasibility of rail service, possible stop locations, potential funding sources, how the rail would be managed and how it would connect with other existing and future transit systems, such as the Summit Stage, according to documents released by CDOT. CDOT has secured the funding needed for studies to collect the additional information and determine the viability of the rail system, an executive summary of the preferred alternative stated. “(We have funding) to start asking the questions,” said Wendy Wallach, a CDOT environmental manager for the I-70 corridor. “We may not determine whether it’s feasible or not by the end, but we’re going to start looking at alignments and station scenarios.” The preferred alternative also includes widening I-70 to six lanes between Floyd Hill and the Twin Tunnels near Idaho Springs as well as an eastbound auxiliary lane from the Eisenhower Tunnel to Herman Gulch and a westbound auxiliary lane from Bakerville to the Eisenhower Tunnel. In addition, more extensive project options within the preferred alternatives include widening the highway to six lanes between the Eisenhower Tunnel and the Twin Tunnels. The plan also describes non-infrastructure related components, such as bus or shuttle services and efforts to change traveler behavior by encouraging carpooling and commuting at off-peak times. The preferred alternative was developed in response to current peak-time congestion on I-70 that is expected to worsen over the next 15 years. By 2035, traffic volumes are expected to triple weekend travel time from 2000, while weekday travel time would be more than double what it was in 2000 without improvements, according to data included in the PEIS. The 527-page PEIS, released by the Colorado Department of Transportation in March, presented more than 20 improvement plan options, developed through extensive studies of the corridor’s problems and feedback from stakeholders and the public.

IT’S OPEN: Traffic moving on I-70 through Glenwood Canyon

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Interstate 70 through the Glenwood Canyon reopened about 3 p.m. this afternoon. The Colorado Department of Transportation had been working on getting one traffic lane in each direction open on through the canyon since a rock fall closed the road early Monday morning. Crews were able to open the interstate to one lane in each direction with a 14-foot width restriction, and speeds are reduced to 40 mph through the canyon. CDOT Maintenance crews began clearing snow in the canyon early Thursday morning and began work to make the repairs necessary to open a single lane of traffic in each direction. Crews cleared rock debris from all lanes which were brought down from yesterday’s mitigation work removing a large boulder above the fall area. The blast brought down about a dozen larger boulders, and many smaller rocks. Repairs to the elevated roadway’s drainage system and roadway patching in numerous places where boulders punched holes in the road surface are currently underway. Crews set up traffic control cones, barrels, and signage on the interstate Wednesday, so that when repairs were completed the highway could open quickly. Delays are expected at first. CDOT will update on traffic delays as the project progresses.

$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.