Parachute interchange work starts today on I-70 |

Parachute interchange work starts today on I-70

Heather McGregor
Post Independent Editor
Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO
Illustration courtesy Colorado Department of Transportation

PARACHUTE, Colorado – Work is set to start today, a year ahead of schedule, on construction of the new $12 million West Parachute I-70 interchange.

The new Exit 72, to be built three miles west of the main Exit 75 Parachute interchange, will make use of the existing Highway 6 overpass bridge.

Exit 72 will tie in to the new Parachute Park Boulevard bypass, creating a new direct connection between County Road 215 and gas development areas west of Parachute.

“We are just positive this will make it so much easier for industry to get in and out of town,” said Parachute Mayor Judy Beasley.

“This interchange project was originally planned for construction in 2013,” said Roland Wagner, resident engineer for the Colorado Department of Transportation. “A team effort and partnership with the Federal Highway Administration, Garfield County and CDOT accelerated the final design and construction by one year.”

The project has been in the works since 2008, when gas industry traffic grew to the point that it overwhelmed Parachute’s existing I-70 interchange and overpass, which also serves as the main roadway connecting Parachute to Battlement Mesa.

“It’s been a multi-year effort with some tremendous public and private partners, and it’s nice to see it finally come together,” said Parachute Town Administrator Robert Knight. “The stars aligned.”

He credited Garfield County with “breaking the ice” by offering a $2.5 million local match in an application for $8 million from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs through its mineral impact fund. “Without their guarantee, we would never have gotten started,” Knight said of the county’s pledge.

The Colorado Department of Transportation awarded the construction contract to SEMA Construction. The work is slated to be done by Oct. 31.

The new Exit 72 interchange will include on- and off-ramps in both east and west directions tying in to the existing overpass bridge on U.S. Highway 6. The project also includes construction of roundabouts on the north and south sides of the overpass and an asphalt overlay on Highway 6.

Several safety improvements will also be made, including new guardrail and new wildlife fencing on the north side of the interchange.

The existing overpass will be upgraded with new approach slabs, new rail and curb structures, new guardrails and a waterproofing membrane on the deck. The bridge deck will be overlaid with new asphalt, offering enhanced skid resistance, reduced noise levels and a smoother surface. Drainage improvements will also be made.

“We can expect to see a lot of dirt-moving trucks,” Knight said. “They’ll be moving about 800,000 cubic yards. There are a couple of very big holes to fill in.”

During construction there will be single-lane closures on both eastbound and westbound sections of Highway 6 and across the overpass bridge. Work hours are expected to be 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Knight said the new interchange will ease traffic pressures in Parachute. It also opens the possibility for a westward extension of Cardinal Way, which runs between I-70 and the Colorado River through the southern side of Parachute.

At present, Cardinal Way dead-ends at Grand Valley High School. But Parachute has an application before the Colorado Public Utilities Commission to build a bridge that would eliminate an at-grade railroad crossing near the new interchange, allowing Cardinal Way to be extended to the new Exit 72 interchange.

These roadway improvements combined would open the southwest area of Parachute to commercial and industrial development, Knight said.

“We totally expect the landscape to change over the next three to five years, fueling some economic diversity and resurgence,” Knight said.

“We’re anticipating big changes as it shifts the traffic flow, and as development takes place south of the interchange,” said Beasley.

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