Considering the extreme alpine conditions and massive surges of peak-period traffic, CDOT does a decent job of keeping traffic moving on Interstate 70 between Denver and the mountain resorts in Summit County. And after widening the eastbound side of the Twin Tunnels, the state highway agency is now working on the westbound tunnel to help skiers get to the ski area powder just a little bit faster.
The work on the tunnel won't immediately result in a new lane, though. According to CDOT, the widening will enable a new lane when the highway on either side of the tunnel is expanded in the westbound direction. For this spring and summer, travelers on the highway can expect 30 minute stops in both directions as crews work on the new project. For specific info on the tunnel work, visit this CDOT page.
The big news is the addition of an eastbound peak-period shoulder lane in time for next ski season. This summer, CDOT will improve the existing shoulder to make it available for skiers headed back down the mountain. In all, there will be a third lane of traffic for 12 miles, from Empire Junction all the way to the existing three-lane highway at Floyd Hill. Traffic experts estimate that the addition of the new lane could shave up to 30 minutes off the return trip to Denver.
Specifically, CDOT says the new lane will:
- provide faster speeds in all lanes (up to 45 mph in the tolled express lane and 30 in all other lanes)
- reduce travel times by as much as 48 percent from the Eisenhower/ Johnson Memorial Tunnels to the top of Floyd Hill
- reduce congestion related crashes
- provide a more reliable trip
The new lane will only be open during peak commute periods and motorists will be tolled when they choose to use the lane, so it will serve as a test case to see if travelers are willing to pay for highway upgrades with tolls.
CDOT is looking for feedback on the project at this website: http://i70ppsl-cdot.com/.