Project aimed at improving safety and traffic flow between Denver and mountain resorts
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — Construction crews have reached a major milestone on a major Interstate 70 improvement project between Colorado’s mountain resorts and Denver, with major blasting operations for a new tunnel bore now complete, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation.
Along with the new bore in the eastbound Twin Tunnel near Idaho Springs, CDOT is also straightening and widening curves in the narrow canyon in hopes of easing congestion and improving safety at one of the tighest choke points along the corridor.
Part of the project could be done in time for the upcoming ski season. The improvements could shave a few minutes off the trip back to Denver, and, more importantly, should help reduce the number of accidents along that stretch, which can bring traffic to a standstill for hours. According to CDOT, there about 300 accidents per year along that section of the highway.
The three-month blasting operation required closures of up to 30 minutes, even with a well-built bypass road.
CDOT estimates that about 19,700 cubic yards of rock was removed from the 635-foot-long tunnel. Blasting operations began on April 19 to remove the rock from the tunnel bore, and crews performed an average of six blasts per week – totaling 70 blasts this year.
“The completion of blasting at the Twin Tunnels is a significant milestone and has been one of the largest challenges we have faced so far in the corridor,” said Jim Bemelen, CDOT I-70 Mountain Corridor Program Manager. “We still have a lot of work on the Twin Tunnels project and on other projects throughout the area to improve the safety and decrease congestion on I-70.”
Although daily blasting is complete, construction near the Twin Tunnels will continue through the end of the year. In addition to widening the eastbound tunnel bore and adding a third lane, the project will reconstruct the eastbound I-70 bridge over Clear Creek to help flatten the roadway curve at Hidden Valley.
The remaining construction will require lane restrictions during non-peak travel times in both directions to complete the work. Through the end of the year, crews will complete the tunnel liner, reconstruct the eastbound I-70 bridge over Clear Creek and add the third eastbound lane from Idaho Springs to Floyd Hill.
The Twin Tunnels Project is scheduled to be complete in the summer of 2014, with three lanes of traffic open on eastbound I-70 by the end of 2013 and is the first of several projects designed to improve safety and mobility along the I-70 mountain corridor.