All The Way to The County Line
Paving Project Resumes on Tuesday
The good news for commuters who do have to work this Labor Day holiday is that traffic on Highway 24 south of Leadville should be smooth sailing on Monday. Well, at least as far as construction traffic is concerned as CDOT officials have pressed pause on all projects through the three-day, high travel weekend.
The US 24 Leadville South Improvements project is part of CDOT’s Rural Paving Program, working in partnership with APC Southern Construction for approximately 17 miles of improvements to an increasingly congressed roadway.
When the work resumes on Tuesday, Sept. 7, motorists will be impacted from the Hayden Meadows area near the junction of County Road 7 more commonly known as the turnoff for Beaver Lake Estates/Mt Massive Lakes access. The bridge over the mighty Arkansas River will see asphalt leveling, resurfacing, guardrail replacement where necessary, and re-striping.
As the project continues along Highway 24, the stretch from the County Road 10 turnoff (Shore Pretty Drive) south towards the Moose Haven Condos, will see significant, life-saving shoulder widening efforts which has been needed on this stretch of Highway 24 for decades. Eventually, the work crew will meet up with Highway 82 (turnoff to Twin Lakes) but will continue south to the Lake County line at milepost 183.5, just before the town of Granite.
The two biggest traffic concerns during this leg of construction are first the dozens of schoolchildren who commute through this work zone up from Twin Lakes to the Lake County School District and others who travel to Buena Vista for their education. And secondly, the upcoming leaf-peeping season generally puts additional strain along Highway 82 over Independence Pass with routing heavily marketed through Leadville via Highway 24 this time of year.
While locals may find some reprieve during certain times, accessing what is informally known as Shore Pretty Drive, County Road 10 certainly isn’t ready to absorb that kind of seasonal traffic impact and be in any kind of shape to meet the winter months ahead. Hopefully, plans and proper messaging are in place for both of those safety concerns as the US 24 Leadville South Improvements project continues, anticipated to wrap up at the end of October 2021.
In addition, here’s a mash-up of announcements from CDOT as well as Holy Cross Energy concerning nearby projects which could have impacts for people living in Leadville Today.
Last Hurrah for Summer Traffic
With the last few days of the summer travel season underway, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) is reminding drivers to anticipate additional traffic in many areas of the state due to the numerous events and recreational activities taking place over Labor Day weekend.
Beginning Friday at noon, CDOT is suspending all construction projects to reduce potential traffic delays. The only exception is for emergency operations. Projects can resume their regular schedule on Tuesday, Sept. 7.
“It is imperative that drivers take all of the necessary precautions as they travel during these final days of summer,” said CDOT Executive Director Shoshana Lew. “This includes following the posted speed limits, be prepared for more traffic, not driving drunk, and not driving distracted. Doing so will ensure a safe and fun Labor Day weekend.”
Heavier than normal traffic should be anticipated on Interstate 25 along the Front Range and on I-70 west of Denver this weekend. I-70’s traffic tends to be heaviest from mid-morning until late afternoon on Friday, and from 7 a.m. to mid-afternoon on Saturday. Eastbound I-70 traffic will be at its peak on Labor Day from mid-morning to late afternoon, especially from Summit County to the Denver area. Drivers are reminded to plan additional travel time when traveling I-70 through Glenwood Canyon, due to reduced speeds.
The 2020 Labor Day weekend traffic numbers at the Eisenhower/Johnson Memorial Tunnels:
|Friday, Sept. 4||24,217||15,999||40,216|
|Saturday, Sept. 5||26,977||19,190||46,167|
|Sunday, Sept. 6||19,744||27,007||46,751|
|Monday, Sept. 7||16,453||33,485||49,938|
Colorado 5 – the Mount Evans Highway – closes from Summit Lake to the top on Tuesday morning, Sept. 7. The remaining segment from Echo Lake to Summit Lake is scheduled to remain open through Sunday, Oct. 3, weather permitting.
Other seasonal roadways – CO. 82 over Independence Pass between Twin Lakes and Aspen and Trail Ridge Road through Rocky Mountain National Park – remain open through the fall until adverse weather requires a full closure for the winter.
Transmission Line to Gilman Under Review
Last Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021, the White River National Forest released the draft Environmental Assessment analyzing the proposed Holy Cross Energy Avon-to-Gilman Electric (115-kV) Transmission Line Project for public comment.
The 8.9-mile line would run southeast from a substation east of Avon, pass through Minturn town limits, and terminate at a substation just above Gilman, an uninhabited old mining town on Battle Mountain. Holy Cross Energy is proposing the line to provide increased service reliability as the electrical load increases in Eagle County communities.
The proposed line would cross 3.4 miles of National Forest System lands, about 2.2 miles of which would be above ground and 1.2 miles underground. The Forest Service decision only covers the portion of the proposed line crossing National Forest System lands.
“We have worked closely with Holy Cross Energy to minimize the potential impacts across National Forest System lands,” said Eagle-Holy Cross District Ranger Leanne Veldhuis. “We made several changes to the original proposal based on public comments received during the March 2020 public scoping period, including timing limitations to reduce impacts to wintering big game and burying the line in specific areas to reduce visual impacts.”
The draft EA and information about how to comment are available at https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=57224. Comments need to be received by Oct. 3, 2021.
I-70’s Vail Pass Upgrades Underway
#DidYouKnow that the crash rate on Vail Pass is the highest for all of I-70 in Colorado with 558 crashes from 2014 to 2016?
It’s a stat that Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) managers took seriously and this summer some of those end results came into focus with more work in the are scheduled for next year. Here are the details from officials:
The I-70 West Vail Pass Auxiliary Lanes project will improve safety and operations on West Vail Pass. The project limits extend from the East Vail Exit at Mile Point 180 to the Vail Pass Rest Area at Mile Point 190 and include a wide range of improvements to address the unique nature of Vail Pass. This stretch of I-70 has steep grades and tight curves and the intermingling of faster-moving passenger vehicles with slower-moving trucks that often result in inconsistent travel times along the corridor.
In June 2020, CDOT was awarded a $60.7 million Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation for significant improvements to Vail Pass on I-70. This, combined with other funding sources, will allow for the construction of the first phase of the project, totaling $140.4 million.
Initial construction activities focus on reconstructing the truck ramp near Mile Point 182, just east of Vail, and installing a highway closure system near Mile Point 190 at the top of Vail Pass. The truck ramp reconstruction began Monday, Aug. 9, with light construction impacts.
Additional, more significant construction activities will start in spring 2022, spanning 10 miles of Interstate 70 from East Vail to the top of Vail Pass. Those improvements will include a new eastbound auxiliary lane from MP 185-190.
“With only two lanes currently in each direction, I-70 is often completely closed during an incident to prevent secondary crashes, protect first responders, and re-open the interstate in an efficient and safe manner,” said CSP Captain Jared Rapp. “The addition of the third lane, the eastbound auxiliary lane, will allow for emergency responders to close the lane of the incident plus an additional lane to protect responders, while still keeping the third lane open for traffic.”
The improvement project also includes location-specific improved curves, widened shoulders and bridge replacement, as well as improved signage, new wildlife underpasses and fencing, and relocation of two miles of the Vail Pass recreational trail. Major construction will be completed in 2024.
“The last few weeks have reminded us just how much the whole state relies on the critical junctures across the I-70 mountain corridor,” said Executive Director Shoshana Lew, in direct reference to the ongoing mudslide situation in Glenwood Canyon. “This project will add critical resiliency to Vail Pass with the addition of an auxiliary lane that will provide a place for emergency vehicles to manage incidents and help keep the road open during winter and other adverse weather events. It also includes key features like wildlife crossings and improved lighting that will improve safety and protect the environment.”
About Vail Pass (CDOT)
Vail Pass is a dramatic and challenging section of I-70 in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. Completed in 1979, the pass as we know it has struggled to keep up with Colorado’s growing population and traffic while still serving as an essential connection in Colorado and the nation’s transportation network. Vail Pass is also subject to extreme weather and harsh natural elements. The resulting wear and tear and challenging driving conditions come at a cost: the crash rate on Vail Pass is the highest for all of I-70 in Colorado, per million vehicle miles traveled, with 558 crashes from 2014 to 2016. The INFRA grant will save taxpayer dollars by helping reduce accidents and minimize costly detours. The estimated economic impact for detours is $1 million for every hour I-70 is closed.
“With so much riding on the efficiency of this stretch of I-70, this project looks to have a very high return on investment,” said Vershun Tolliver, FHWA Deputy Division Administrator-Colorado. “With a 1.75 benefit-to-cost ratio, we know the $140 million is money well spent.”