The Mile High Shift halts one of Colorado’s busiest roadways

Data Desk

DENVER (KDVR) — Denver should be ready to absorb hundreds of thousands of extra vehicles on its city streets this weekend as a result of the Interstate 70 Mile High Shift.

The Colorado Department of Transportation’s Mile High Shift will close I-70 entirely between Washington Street and Interstate 270 from 10 p.m. on Friday, May 21 to 5 a.m. on Monday, May 24 as part of the highway renovation project. The project will move six lanes of I-70 from the existing viaduct to the future westbound lanes between Brighton and Colorado Boulevards.

This is far from just a minor and local inconvenience. This location is one of the busiest sections of one of Colorado’s busiest roadways during one of the busiest driving seasons.

Unsurprisingly, the two most heavily trafficked roads in Colorado are Interstate 25 and I-70.

CDOT has just under 3,300 traffic counters peppered throughout the state. One-third of annual average daily traffic counts go through those two freeways – 22% through I-25 and 10% through I-70.

Not only is I-70 itself the second-busiest road, but the stretch being closed for the weekend is its busiest section.

The three busiest sections of I-70 are in between Havana St. and I-25. The traffic counter in between Washington St. and I-270 has an average daily count of 181,000 vehicles.

There’s also the question of the gridlock that will happen from backed up traffic on either side of the I-70 closure or of north- and southbound I-25 traffic.

This chart shows the 50 busiest traffic counters in Colorado.

The bars in red represent I-70 counters. Every single one is the stretch of I-70 on either side of I-25.

I-25 traffic is another issue.

The single busiest traffic counter in the entire state is I-25/Fox St./38th Ave. This counter, just south of the I-70 intersection, counted nearly 300,000 daily vehicles in 2019.

In short, Denverites living near I-70 might consider taking a scooter instead of driving this weekend. The city is about to have some serious overflow.

“There is mostly likely going to be delays on the detour routes but if you don’t have to (come here), avoiding the area would be best,” said CDOT Spokesperson Stacia Sellers. 

Many of the residents who live in the Globeville and Elyria-Swansea neighborhoods have fought the project that is dramatically changing the landscape and environment. 

But Esther Leads is glad a new road is coming because of potholes.

“It’ll be so much better on the car because your car gets messed up. The roads mess up your tires. (Fixing the roads) would be better,” said Leads. 

Ramon Gallegos has lived next to I-70 for years and said a better highway is needed. 

“Because the first highway is too old. So if you (fix the roads) it’s better. It’s pretty good for everybody,” said Gallegos.

The public information manager for the Kiewit Construction Company said approximately 140 rooms have been reserved for impacted residents near the project. The eligibility zone is 44th to 48th Avenues between Brighton Boulevard and York Street. The company negotiated a contract with the hotel to cover rooms and food for the weekend. 

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