I-70 plans met with objections
Glenwood Springs is on the end of the line of a study for making improvements to the Interstate 70 corridor. But it’s off the edge of the map when it comes to the idea of providing mass transit through the mountains.That didn’t sit well with members of Glenwood Springs City Council during a presentation of potential improvements last week. Several members objected to proposals under which new mass transit projects heading from Denver would go only as far west as the Eagle County Regional Airport.”I look at the mass transit system ending at Eagle as being a real penalty for the rest of us on the Western Slope,” said council member Chris McGovern.They also worried about the economic impacts of any improvement projects, which could make it harder for tourists to get to Glenwood Springs for the 15 years or so that construction could disrupt traffic.”If these people can’t get to Glenwood, we’re hurting,” McGovern said. She compared the potential disruptions to those the city experienced during the building of I-70 through Glenwood Canyon during the 1980s and early 1990s.But doing nothing isn’t much of an option either. The Colorado Department of Transportation is projecting that unless something changes, weekday traffic volumes in 2025 will be similar to those in 2000 during summer and winter weekends. That could mean driving between Glenwood Springs and Denver could take six hours.CDOT recently issued a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement that outlines numerous options for improving transportation along the corridor. Its preferred alternatives included running a bus in a guideway on the highway median; incorporating reversible, high-occupancy vehicle and high-occupancy toll lanes; expanding I-70 to six lanes; or expanding lanes while preserving a transit option. It also considered options such as rail and monorail.A comment period on the CDOT study ends May 24. The I-70 Central Mountain Transportation Corridor Coalition, comprising communities along the corridor, is working on preparing a regionally preferred alternative. The coalition was seeking Glenwood Springs’ input last week.The study area runs from C-470, at the foot of the Front Range, to Exit 116, the main interchange in Glenwood Springs. Glenwood council member Dave Merritt said the city had sought unsuccessfully to have the study area go to the west Glenwood interchange.CDOT is planning a $15 million upgrade of Exit 116, partly to lengthen the westbound off-ramp so traffic doesn’t back up onto the highway along the sharp curve there.A goal of running mass transit to the Eagle airport is to help transport skiers who fly in there.”We are not solving anything stopping mass transit in Eagle, except giving good access to Vail,” council member Bruce Christensen said. “It’s not going to do any good if it stops,” council member Joe O’Donnell agreed. “We’re still going to drive our cars.”Mayor Larry Emery said CDOT’s plans fail to address one of the most restricted areas of Interstate 70 – Glenwood Canyon.Merritt said CDOT needs to be pushed toward alternatives with more mass transit.”They’re going to have to look at putting more money into this,” he said.The state is aiming to keep its costs under $4 billion. Both rail and monorail would cost more.Council members questioned how snow would be removed from the bus guideway.McGovern said the bus plan also entails “a lot of concrete.”Both she and Christensen like the reversible HOV/HOT lanes alternative. Council member Larry Beckwith said he favors six-laning I-70 under a design with a 55-mph speed limit, while preserving the possibility for transit.Whatever option the state chooses, Emery said, it will be important that it can afford not only to build it, but to operate it and maintain it.
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