December I-70 lane closures a learning experience

Much work remains in Idaho Springs area

Corinne Westeman
cwesteman@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 1/12/21

While Colorado Department of Transportation staff members said the daytime Interstate 70 lane closures in mid-December were a necessary measure to ensure the corridor’s safety this winter, they …

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December I-70 lane closures a learning experience

Much work remains in Idaho Springs area

Posted

While Colorado Department of Transportation staff members said the daytime Interstate 70 lane closures in mid-December were a necessary measure to ensure the corridor’s safety this winter, they also said it has become a learning experience.

“I realize it was pretty bumpy, but you can see we got quite a few things done,” CDOT Project Engineer Jeff Hampton said at a Jan. 6 county commissioners meeting.

Hampton and his colleagues emphasized that they don’t want to do anymore daytime lane closures for the remainder of the project, and added that they’re considering labeling mid-December as a no-work timeframe on future projects.

During the next few months, construction work will primarily be in the shoulders on I-70 or off the highway altogether.

Hampton said there’s still a great deal of work to be done in Idaho Springs’ downtown parking lots, including relocating the sewer main and finishing the sound wall near the 100 block of Miner Street. Additionally, exits 240 and 239 will see safety improvements for both pedestrian and vehicle traffic.

In the meantime, CDOT is waiting for temperatures to warm again before finishing the last half-mile of paving on Interstate 70. Hampton said he’s hoping to resume that work in mid-April and have the lane operational by June.

‘Point of no return’

Graham Construction LLC, CDOT’s contractor for the express lane project, had hoped to make the late November incentive deadline, and CDOT and local partners did what they could to help make that happen.

CDOT Region 1 Project Engineer Mike Keleman said he felt there was a reasonable chance to hit that milestone at the time, but admitted to being a little overly optimistic.

“You never know what’s going to happen in winter in the mountains,” Keleman said. “ … As time went on, our optimism window really started to shut.”

He said he felt that both CDOT and the contractor share fault for the situation.

Hampton claimed responsibility, explaining that he didn’t have good data on what was left to be paved, and once he and his team started researching, it was too late.

“It’s not 6,000 tons; it’s 12,000 tons,” he said. “And when you’re putting down 800 a day, those days add up.”

So, with the late November incentive deadline past, CDOT and Graham Construction focused on making the corridor safe throughout the winter, Hampton and Keleman explained, with the latter saying it was a point of no return.

Daytime lane closures were needed to complete the work, and Keleman said CDOT tried to get the message out and also looked at previous traffic count data to find windows that would be acceptable. Crews brought up an extra paver and more trucks to try to expedite the closures, he described.

Only Christmas Day was labeled as a no-work period, Hampton said, adding that he’s recommending that change for future multi-season projects, such as Floyd Hill.

Hampton noted that perhaps CDOT wasn’t communicative enough about how lengthy delays would be the first week, but traffic the second week didn’t seem as bad because expectations were much clearer.

Commissioner Randy Wheelock said he was generally understanding of the situation. He also felt that daytime lane closures the week before Christmas is a bad idea, and that should be taken into account for Floyd Hill.

Keleman commented: “While the intentions were good, we’ll probably be more conservative the next time around. … I think that’s the biggest lesson learned.”

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