I-70 interchange work to begin
Thanks to a combination of proactive planning and a new state transportation funding policy, Grand Junction will more quickly see improvements at the U.S. Highway 6&50 interchange at Interstate 70 at the west edge of the city. Having a transportation plan in the works also opens the door for two new truck stops to locate near there, Pilot Travel Center and Love’s. Additionally, the city of Grand Junction has dedicated funds to realign 22 Road.
In sum, the roughly $24 million project should be a boon to local contractors and suppliers, according to Grand Junction city planners.
“That’s a great infusion into the local economy. That’s got to be good,” City Planning Manager Lisa Cox said while looking over Pilot’s future site on the southwest corner of exit 26 off I-70.
The Colorado Department of Transportation had planned to construct a new traffic flow pattern on the interstate near that exit. But the state would have had to wait until 2014 or 2015 before enough money was available. Earlier this month Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper released a plan that would allow some “shovel ready” transportation projects to more quickly get off the ground. In part because local planning officials already had designs for the Grand Junction project, funds from another project were diverted here. Officials from the state Transportation Commission were tasked with choosing which capital projects would be expedited under the governor’s new directive.
Love’s and Pilot truck stops had long expressed interest in locating near the interstate’s off and on ramps off U.S. Highway 6&50 since 2006. However, the current alignment of the ramps would not sustain the influx of truck traffic, city planners said.
Starting in January, CDOT will begin construction to create a diverging-diamond interchange on the interstate, a traffic pattern that has vehicles briefly weave to the left of each other. The design is expected to be safer and less expensive than alternative cloverleaf designs. Interstate 70’s diverging-diamond interchange would be the first in the state, although a similar project is planned in Superior and Louisville at McCaslin Boulevard and U.S. Highway 36.
The Pilot Travel Center will be built first, with work expected to get under way as early as February. Love’s plans are still wending through the city’s planning process. The Love’s truck stop also would be built on the west side of the interchange, across U.S. 6&50 from the Pilot truck stop.
According to Pilot’s application, the 10-acre truck stop will include a convenience store, fast-food restaurants and fueling stations for passenger vehicles, trucks and recreational vehicles. The company estimates the truck stop will employ about 100 people and Pilot officials expect to open the facility in May.
Grand Junction has dedicated $4 million to realign 22 Road. CDOT is contributing about $4 million for the interchange. Construction costs for each truck stop are expected to run about $8 million.
If the plans for the diverging-diamond interchange weren’t already in the works, it’s likely the project would have been pushed back a few years, according to city planners. Planners this past spring submitted the diverging-diamond concept for a federal grant but were denied.
Because the designs were in hand, the project was more easily chosen by the state commission. Stalling the transportation project would probably also have pushed back the creation of the truck stops.
“It’s good that it was ready to go rather than starting from scratch,” Cox said.
The road construction project marks the biggest transportation project slated for Grand Junction in 2013.