IDAHO SPRINGS, Colo. (CBS4)– Crews began blasting inside a mountain near Idaho Springs on Friday. It’s the latest part of the project to widen the eastbound Twin Tunnel on Interstate 70.
The area is a notorious bottleneck on the driver back to Denver from the mountains. The third lane is designed to ease traffic woes on the drive.
“We’re afraid to get out of the traffic line to patronize your city,” said Idaho Springs Mayor Jack Morgan. “It’ll put people traveling through our city in a better frame of mind.”
Crews working on the project will take advantage of the spring weather in hopes of finishing it before ski traffic builds again during the holidays. Blasting and concrete work also can’t be done if the temperatures drop below freezing.
Blasting has been going on outside of the tunnel for several weeks but Friday was the first time crews blasted inside the tunnel.
“From here on out we’re in the tunnel widening, reinforcing, so it’s a whole process of drill, blast, reinforce, drill, blast, reinforce, two teams working from each direction,” said Colorado Department of Transportation Regional Manager Tony DeVito.
That could mean up to six blasts a day. Each one brings traffic to a halt for up to 30 minutes.
Those delays are expected to be worth it once the project is complete.
“Thus far it’s been pretty minimal once or twice but I drive this route everyday,” said Clear Creek Rafting Company employee Dale Drake.
Drake lives in Golden but works at the Clear Creek Rafting Company. He said he’s been assured those rafts won’t be impacted.
“During the summer we’re expecting to have some delays with our shuttles but on the river we expect to have normal operations,” said Drake.
The $106 million project is scheduled to open to traffic Dec. 1.
“Before next year’s ski traffic we’ll be into a three-lane configuration,” said DeVito.
The extra lane is also expected to reduce travel times during congestion by 35 percent.
Morgan said sales tax revenue is up eight percent over last year.