CDOT brainstorming how to cut traffic on I-70 mountain corridor

IDAHO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Major changes are in the works for the Interstate 70 mountain corridor near Idaho Springs.

The 14-mile stretch of highway is one of Colorado’s most congested. At Floyd Hill, the westbound side goes from three lanes to two. And as more people move to Colorado, the lanes are bursting at the seams.

“We see traffic delays up to two hours. Sometimes more,” Colorado Department of Transportation spokeswoman Stacia Sellers said.

The stretch between Floyd Hill and the Empire exit also sees more crashes than other parts of I-70, especially during peak travel on Friday afternoons and Saturday mornings.

Aside from traffic concerns, the bottleneck is negatively impacting tourism and the local economy in towns such as Idaho Springs. Residents are also being stranded during gridlock, unable to freely drive through their communities.

“There is no concrete solution right now. We do know that we are going to do westbound improvements eventually,” Sellers said.

CDOT’s earliest plans for construction are still three to four years away. However, Tuesday night it took a big step toward that direction.

“We’ve invited the community to come join us so we can hear their input and also put to rest some community concerns before moving forward,” Sellers said.

“It’s pretty exciting,” Floyd Hill resident Ron Barta said. "I’m looking forward to seeing it developed.”

Barta believes the best way to relieve congestion is to incorporate a permanent third lane in the project corridor.

According to CDOT, the most plausible idea is to install an express toll lane, similar to the one it completed in the eastbound lanes in 2015.

“If we can keep three lanes all the way, that’s going to be very helpful,” Barta said.

Other ideas for improvement include adding a frontage road between Idaho Springs and U.S. 6 and making improvements to interchanges throughout the corridor.

CDOT is still looking for ideas from the public to improve traffic flow in areas it might not have addressed.

There is no estimated cost of the project because CDOT has not decided what improvements it will make.

There will be another public meeting in the summer followed by a design period. CDOT is expected to begin construction in three to four years, depending on when it can secure funding.

“We know there are going to be problems in the construction, but it’ll really benefit everybody,” Barta said.