Interest in I-70 could spell traffic relief
The staggering cost estimates — tens of billions of dollars — for constructing and operating a high-speed train to relieve traffic congestion on Interstate 70 between Denver and mountain towns have long kept the brakes on such plans.
There’s no evidence those cost projections have suddenly plummeted. But it is encouraging news, as reported in The Denver Post Thursday, that 150 companies from around the globe have expressed an interest in the project to the Colorado Department of Transportation.
On Wednesday, CDOT officialy began asking companies for formal proposals to relieve I-70 congestion — using levitated trains or some other technology. Interested firms must submit Statements of Technology Information to CDOT by Oct. 10. The transportation agency hopes many of the 150 companies that have expressed interest will submit official proposals.
We hope that whatever proposals are put forth, state officials will consider ways of maximizing transportation along I-70 all the way to Grand Junction, not just to Eagle County.
We understand that the most serious congestion problems occur between Denver and Vail, and that’s where the primary focus of any technological solution to the traffic congestion should be. But it would be unfortunate if, in resolving the Denver-to-Vail problem, transportation planners created a new bottleneck from Vail westward. That would further divide this state along new geographical and political lines.
That concern aside, the news of CDOT’s search for technological proposals to relieve I-70 congestion and the preliminary private interest in the project is encouraging.
CDOT officials anticipate receiving some proposals that are unrealistic or unworkably futuristic. The proposals that are more grounded they plan to place into three different groups, according to the Post: those capable of operating entirely within the existing I-70 corridor, those that will have to operate completely outside the interstate corridor and those using a blend of I-70 right-of-way and other property.
The feasibility study for the high-tech project is to be completed a year from now, and an environmental study related to solving the I-70 traffic woes suggested having a high-speed train or other technology in place by 2025.
Completing such a project 13 years from now, when neither the technology nor the funding is in place, is probably overly ambitious. Still, each year, the congestion on I-70 seems to worsen, and not just from Denver to Vail. That increased congestion frustrates travelers and makes out-of-state tourists less likely to visit western Colorado. That hurts ski resorts and other businesses in this region. At some point, the costs associated with congestion will make other options more feasible.
A better system is needed. CDOT is on the right track in soliciting ideas for a variety of technological fixes. Perhaps a great idea is just waiting to be presented.