IDAHO SPRINGS, Colo. (CBS4)– Frustration continues to grow not just among drivers who use Interstate 70 in the high country, but business owners and emergency responders are also growing weary of the road closures.
The Colorado Department of Transportation has several projects underway along I-70 from Idaho Springs to the Eisenhower-Johnson Tunnels. Some claim those projects are creating some serious repercussions.
“We’ve lost ramps and bridge access from time to time so it’s just really affected businesses in the area,” said Shell gas station attendant Keith Gibson.
Business owners in Idaho Springs say the streets are virtually empty of visitors and they are not hinting when they blame the construction. First responders say the maze of traffic backups is making it difficult for them to respond to emergencies in a timely manner.
“Stuck in traffic, eating up 30, 40 minutes, 1½ hours of your time,” said Jerry Furberg, owner of the Idaho Springs Mountain Gems jewelry store.
“You never know where the lane closures are going to be, one day they could have a ramp closed for 14 days and the next time they’ve closed an eight mile stretch of I-70 west,” said Gibson.
Furberg and Gibson are just two of several business owners who are frustrated. They blame the extended period of major I-70 road work for sluggish sales and angry customers.
“People who aren’t familiar with the area, once they are in a cone zone, the last thing you want to do is get out of that cone zone and go into a town that you’re not that familiar with, so we’re finding that a lot of people are avoiding us, just going further up the hill,” said Furberg.
Traffic jams caused by the projects don’t just tie up visitors passing through, the construction is also impacting emergency crews trying to navigate through the backups.
“Business is one thing but safety of the population, that is another thing,” said Furberg.
Business owners told CBS4 they hope the long-term interstate fixes are work the short-term headaches.
Delays along road work sections of I-70 vary between 15 minutes to more than an hour depending on the time of day and traffic volume.