IDAHO SPRINGS, Colo. (CBS4) – The Colorado Department of Transportation is in the middle of wrapping up a major Interstate 70 construction project at the Twin Tunnels.
Crews are moving traffic back into the west and eastbound tunnels so drivers won’t have to go around the mountain near Idaho Springs.
The project started in April 2013 for eastbound I-70. Now on the westbound side, the tunnel has new lights and new pavement.
While they’ve been called the Twin Tunnels for years, Clear Creek County wanted to give them a new name now.
“We are officially in business as the Veteran’s Memorial Tunnels,” CDOT spokeswoman Emily Wilfong said.
Over the weekend, traffic was switched back into the proper westbound configuration. Work on that half started in April.
“We are on schedule. This project was eight months long, which is a short amount of time to do a lot of work,” Wilfong said.
In all, crews used 80 blasts to remove tons of rock from inside. The project was different than last year’s because the rock wall on either side of the tunnel had to be shaved back.
In total, nearly 8,000 dump trucks full of rock were moved.
“The main thing that needs to happen now is moving eastbound traffic into its final alignment,” Wilfong said. “That’s a little bit trickier because we need to remove the detour and get them back inside the tunnel.”
CDOT officials say last winter the new eastbound tunnel helped ease traffic congestion, but that won’t be the case westbound. There will still only be two lanes of traffic through that area.
“Right now we don’t have the funding to widen the highway on either end of the tunnel, but this puts us in a great position if we choose to do that in the future.”
One CDOT official told CBS4 if it didn’t do the $55 million project now while it still had the detour in place from the eastbound tunnel, it’s likely I-70 wouldn’t have ever been able to expand.
Crews still have some light aesthetic touch-ups to do through the spring, but there won’t be any more detours or delays because of the work.