I-70 Floyd Hill project groundbreaking kicks off initial work

Federal and state officials on Wednesday kicked off several off-highway projects that will serve as a prelude to next year’s massive reconstruction of Interstate 70 at Floyd Hill.

Soon, work will begin on new roundabouts that are meant to smooth local and overflow traffic on U.S. 40 along I-70 between the paired Beaver Brook and Floyd Hill exits. The first of two planned wildlife crossings will include an underpass below I-70 near Genesee; the second, starting next year, will be a land bridge over U.S. 40 between I-70 and Empire.

Later, a new park-and-ride for the state Pegasus and Bustang regional transit services is set to be built in 2024 at the El Rancho West exit. The Pegasus van service between Denver and Avon was started this year to provide another transportation alternative along the corridor.

“This project is far more than just a third (I-70) travel lane down the Floyd Hill,” said Margaret Bowes, director of the I-70 Coalition, which has pushed for improvements on the mountain corridor. “It includes redesigned interchanges, completes a frontage road (and has) multiple wildlife crossings. It supports the Pegasus transit service that we’re so excited about on the corridor — and then also integrates with that Clear Creek Greenway.”

But Wednesday’s ceremonial groundbreaking also served as a celebration of the larger multi-year, $700 million project. Officials gathered at a trailhead overlooking Floyd Hill, where I-70 heads downhill into several miles of sharp curves.

Work is set to begin next spring and could last as long as five years, affecting a primary construction zone that extends six miles west to the Veterans Memorial Tunnels, near Idaho Springs. The Colorado Department of Transportation’s plans  include extending I-70’s westbound tolled express lane to the top of Floyd Hill to eliminate a bottleneck; reconstructing significant portions of the highway through Clear Creek Canyon to smooth those curves; and extending a frontage road while relocating major portions of the creek.

The project’s price tag includes the early side projects, project director Kurt Kionka said. The costs will be covered by a mix of state and federal funding as well as borrowing against future toll lane revenue.

“The Highway 70 Floyd Hill project will improve travel for millions of people and reduce time and costs,” Gov. Jared Polis said during the afternoon event.

He was joined by U.S. Sens. John Hickenlooper and Michael Bennet, U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse and Clear Creek County community leaders.

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