$60 million approved for I-70 Twin Tunnels widening
October 21, 2011
BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. – The $60 million widening of the eastbound Twin Tunnels near Idaho Springs is a go, after members of the Colorado Transportation Commission approved a plan to fund the project along with several others Thursday.
The budget supplement approved by a unanimous vote distributes $222 million in found dollars statewide, furnishing Summit County’s CDOT region 1 with $76 million for the Twin Tunnels project, surface treatment work and other regional priorities.
A series of projects planned for Highway 9 are on CDOT’s radar for the $5 million allocated to region 1 priorities, but they are not the only ones, officials said.
“For my region, there are different projects that have been in need,” Region 1 director Tony DeVito said. “Obviously I’m going to hear from Summit County about projects that are on the shelf, like State Highway 9. It’s not enough to do Highway 9.”
The Hwy. 9 projects, amounting to a total estimated cost of $20 million, began with four-laning work last year.
Projects on a corridor of Highway 85 between Highlands Ranch and Castle Rock, Highway 119 and U.S. 285 are also in line for the limited priority funding in Region 1.
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“This is where every everybody starts to compete a little bit,” DeVito said.
A decision on how to spend the $5 million will likely be made next spring following meetings with stakeholders, DeVito said.
Region 1 will also split a $2 million allocation for beetle-kill tree removal with Region 3.
Amid severe funding shortages, CDOT found itself with an unexpected $222 million in the bank earlier this year, pulled together from various state and federal funding sources. The budget supplement approved Thursday by the transportation commission distributes that money among the six CDOT regions, funding a $31 million Interstate 25 project, the Twin Tunnels widening, surface treatment efforts, specific regional priorities and sets aside smaller dollar amounts for road equipment and rockfall mitigation.
“We’re very fortunate Congress extended our current federal funding levels,” CDOT director Don Hunt said. “To be able to bring an additional $220 million into the economy in the next 12 months is a huge victory for us. As we operate in these difficult times it’s also challenging to do the right thing. It’s hard to make those decisions.”
Region 1, which includes Summit County, will get 35 percent of the total funding, the biggest allocation among the six regions, most of which will be used to fund the Twin Tunnels project.
The two-lane shoulderless Twin Tunnels form a bottleneck just east of Idaho Springs on the Interstate 70 mountain corridor that frequently slows eastbound traffic returning to Denver from the mountains on Sunday afternoons during peak seasons.
The widening project will increase the size of the eastbound bore, allowing the road to be expanded to three lanes through to the base of Floyd Hill. The project would also include smoothing sharp curves in the area, which pose a hazard for heavy commercial vehicles and tend to slow down traffic.