IDAHO SPRINGS, Colo. (CBS4) – It’s not unusual to see traffic backups along Interstate 70 as skiers and snowboarders head back down the mountain, but the issue involves more than just traffic tie-ups.
The Colorado Department of Transportation spent most of last week looking for a short-term solution and they might finally have an answer.
CDOT has three options to pick from, but because they still have to find a way to pay for it, the option most likely is a $55 million plan to clear up one of the biggest clogs on I-70 at the Twin Tunnels near Idaho Springs.
The recommendation to fix the Twin Tunnels comes as good news to people who live and work in Idaho Springs.
“At least it’s a start. I think it will do a lot to help the city,” Idaho Springs Mayor Jack Morgan said.
Morgan says the plan to widen the eastbound tunnel to three lanes and to straighten the curves through the Hidden Valley will help emergency services around Idaho Springs the most.
“It’s a strain on our fire department responding to these accidents out there,” Morgan said.
Since 2006 EMS responded to more than 500 accidents on I-70 around Idaho Springs with 104 involving injuries, and four people have died.
Opening up the pinch point is also good for businesses in the area.
“Early in the day we had all sorts of people in but now it’s kind of slowed down, but yet there is still traffic going,” said Jessica Lozano, who works in a chocolate shop in town.
The traffic jams used to help shops and restaurants in town, but that doesn’t seem to be happening anymore.
“They just stay in the car and bite the traffic to get on to Denver,” Morgan said.
Morgan says the construction can’t start soon enough.
“Tomorrow is Monday, I’d like them to start tomorrow,” he said.
The plan is likely to kill a lot of debate when it comes to the “zipper lane” proposal that’s been talked about for over a year.
The plan to widen the tunnel will actually be part of a long-term solution that’s already included in an environmental impact study that will be finished in May.
A plan to add a third lane to the westbound side would cost around $100 million.