CDOT chief backs plan for I-70 to ease Idaho Springs bottleneck

Driving east into Denver on Interstate 70 could become easier if a plan supported by Colorado Department of Transportation head Don Hunt moves forward.

Adding an eastbound lane from the twin tunnels near Idaho Springs to the bottom of Floyd Hill and easing some of the sharp curves could widen the bottleneck that routinely slows traffic into the Denver metro area from the resort communities, Hunt told The Daily Sentinel.

At a cost of about $60 million, the changes could be accommodated within the existing transportation budget of about $1.1 billion, a budget that long has been considered far too small for the job of managing 9,000 miles of road, much of it in the highest reaches of the continental United States.

A lane could be added by restriping existing pavement between the tunnel and Floyd Hill, a distance of about three miles, and other changes could be made to ease the constriction of the 45 mph curves in that stretch of road, Hunt said.

The entire job could be completed in the space of about a year, 2013, if it survives environmental study and other work, Hunt said.

The job could be completed in the space of a year because eastbound traffic could be diverted off the freeway, allowing crews unfettered access to those lanes during the construction period, Hunt said.

While the Interstate 70 project moves forward, Hunt said he hopes an effort aimed at encouraging new ideas from residents of the state will result in transportation improvements.

Gov. John Hickenlooper’s civic-engagement process is aimed at gathering 1,000 Coloradans to tackle ballot-reform, health care, education and transportation issues. Hunt hopes Interstate 70 gets a lot of attention from the effort, he said.

“The governor and I are trying to own as much of I-70 as possible” to ease congestion and ease travel along the state’s main east-west thoroughfare, Hunt said.

Hickenlooper and Hunt are purposely avoiding the idea of a blue-ribbon commission studying transportation in hopes of generating more popularly accepted solutions, Hunt said.

Hunt worked for 25 years with BRW Inc., a national transportation and urban-development consulting firm, the last 10 years as president and CEO. He then worked 11 years as president of the Antero Co., a project-development and management firm, during which he was appointed by Hickenlooper to manage the Better Denver Bond Program, a $550 million infrastructure program.

Hunt now splits his time between Denver and a home in Frisco.


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