CDOT to issue traffic plan for I-70 | PostIndependent.com
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CDOT to issue traffic plan for I-70

Donna Gray

Forget the fact that Interstate 70 is the only east-west interstate connection across Colorado -it’s the only way to get to the state’s major ski areas from the Front Range. For years, skiers and other travelers have had to slog their way up the hill from Denver and through the Eisenhower Tunnel to the mountains, then slog their way back home at the end of the day.Over the years the slog has become a creep. Travelers on their way back to the Front Range after a day of skiing can spend three to four hours going from Winter Park back home.Well aware that its highway is no longer able to handle the traffic, in 2000 the Colorado Department of Transportation began work on an Environmental Impact Statement that will lay out a plan for reducing traffic congestion in the mountain corridor over the next 20 years.Next month, the draft I-70 Mountain Corridor Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement will be published followed by a 90-day public comment period. Preparation of the final document will take place in 2005 and a Notice of Decision, making the document official, is expected in 2006.Part of the EIS process was to identify the “pinch points” along the mountain corridor, which are no surprise to those who travel I-70 on weekends: the intersection of I-70 and U.S. 40 at Empire, and at the Eisenhower-Johnson Memorial Tunnel, as it is officially known.Among other areas of concern are the west side of Vail Pass (mileposts 180-190), the Copper Mountain Interchange (milepost 195), the Officers Gulch Interchange (milepost 198) and the Silverthorne Interchange (milepost 205).CDOT has also identified I-70 interchanges that will be serious problems by 2025 in Glenwood Springs, Eagle and Summit counties.It must also weigh the economic implications of the highway improvements it proposes. By far, the greatest impact of I-70 in Colorado is on tourism.Tourism is the second-largest industry in Colorado, and I-70 is a primary factor in ensuring the health of that economy because it connects people with the state’s world-class destinations.According to CDOT’s I-70 Mountain Corridor Web site (www.i70mtncorridor.com), tourism and recreation created employment for nearly 125,000 persons, for a total of $4.8 billion in annual personal income, and contributed more than $8.3 billion to Colorado’s gross state product in 2000. CDOT also projects the Front Range population to grow to 5 million by 2025 and 101 percent growth in the I-70 mountain corridor, to approximately 340,000.In 1998, CDOT commissioned the I-70 Mountain Corridor Major Investment Study, which developed alternatives for traffic congestion relief. Among the proposals were local highway improvements, a fixed guideway system, bus transit, additional lanes and alternate travel routes.CDOT has put a cost ceiling of $4 billion on the project.The EIS also evaluated a fixed guideway systems as a way of reducing traffic on the highway that would be a magnetic levitation elevated monorail extending from Denver International Airport to Eagle County Airport and linked to local transit systems.For more information about the EIS or to get on the mailing list, call the toll-free telephone number: (877) 408-2930.Contact Donna Gray: 945-8515, ext. 510dgray@postindependent.com


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