The Colorado Department of Transportation says it will use a $60.7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation for improvements to Vail Pass on Interstate 70.
The improvements will take place next year on a 10 mile stretch of I-70 on the west side of Vail Pass in Eagle County.
The grant, from the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America program, will be used to build an eastbound auxiliary lane to reduce traffic hangups and to reconstruct the eastbound bridge over Polk Creek. The project also includes widening shoulders, reconstructing a truck ramp, installing dynamic message signs, providing wildlife crossings and installing automated anti-icing technologies, along with relocating two miles of the recreation path that currently are next to the highway.
Vail Pass was completed in 1979 and has struggled to keep up with Colorado’s growing population and traffic, CDOT said in a news release Thursday. The pass is subject to extreme weather, which results in wear and tear to the highway. It also has the highest crash rate for all of I-70 in Colorado, according to CDOT, and costs the economy an estimated $1 million for every hour the interstate is closed.
“I-70 and Vail Pass in particular serve as an important gateway to outdoor recreation, like hiking, biking, and skiing, and as a vital connector for trucks and freight movement,” U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet said in a statement. “I’m glad DOT has awarded CDOT this grant to make important safety upgrades and reduce the number of closures of West Vail Pass due to inclement weather and vehicle crashes.”
CDOT will provide a match to the INFRA grant of $79.7 million, for a total cost of $140.4 million. Construction on Vail Pass could begin as early as summer 2021, CDOT says.
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