LARKSPUR, Colo. (CBS4) – Drivers who take Interstate 25 between Denver and Colorado Springs will soon get some welcomed relief. All lanes in both directions of the South Gap Project are now set to open nearly a year ahead of schedule.

Gov. Jared Polis announced the mid-December completion date alongside Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet and Sen. John Hickenlooper, as well as several other state leaders on Monday. Construction on the 18-mile stretch of interstate between Castle Rock and Monument was originally set to be complete by November 2022.

“These lifesaving safety improvements will reduce traffic and improve safety,” Polis said. “This is a major victory for people across Colorado.”

(credit: CBS)

Construction of the roughly $419 million project began in September 2018 to ease congestion and reduce wrecks along the narrow and highly travelled stretch of highway. Work has included adding a new express lane in each direction, widening the shoulders, rebuilding bridges, adding wildlife crossings and realigning the road.

“85,000 motorists travel the gap daily, and now they will have improved safety and mobility,” Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers said. “The additional lane will provide travel reliability well into the future and promote multi-modal travel moving more people with fewer vehicles.”

After three years of construction led to lane shifts and traffic backups for commuters, the project is set to finish ahead of schedule and under budget, Polis said.

(credit: CBS)

On Monday, transportation leaders credited the collaboration between Colorado Department of Transportation, contract partner Kraemer North America and local entities. A spokesman for CDOT also said project teams were able to be aggressive with temperature-sensitive work, such as paving, due to the warm fall weather.

“It was not an easy feat, and it has been an all-hands-on deck effort to adapt to constantly changing traffic, temperamental weather, response needs, and we’re all the better for it,” CDOT executive director Shoshana Lew said.

The announcement came as good news to drivers like Jean Kowalski. The Palmer Lake resident described “the gap” as a nightmare that she only deals with when she absolutely must.

“I take it as a huge blessing for those of us who live down here plus hopefully it will resolve many accidents and problems getting through that area,” Kowalski said.

While all lanes will be open to traffic by mid-December, crews will continue to work on paving, installing signs, sweeping and striping the new express lanes. Until that is all complete, officials encourage drivers to follow the speed limit and slow down when near workers.

Once all lanes are open, drivers will be able to use the express lanes without paying a toll until testing is complete in fall of 2022.

Conor McCue