Today is 40th Anniversary of I-70 West of Fruita to Utah State Line

September 27, 2013 - Interstate segment won “first place” distinction in 1973 - Northwestern Colorado/CDOT Region 3 - GRAND JUNCTION, CO – Today, Sept. 27, 2013, the westernmost section of I-70 in Colorado, a 11-mile segment from Mack west to the Utah/Colorado border, has reached its 40th anniversary.

The original dedication ceremonies were held on the new section of interstate on September 27, 1973, at the Rabbit Valley Overpass, located 1.8 miles east of the Colorado/Utah border. Then Colorado Governor John Vanderhoof was in attendance, with music provided by the Fruita High School Marching Band.

Design work had been progressing on this section of I-70 beginning in the late 1960s.  As design approached the Utah border, coordination was required with Utah Department of Transportation district engineers located in Price, UT.  Utah officials shifted their proposed crossing of the border to meet the interstate alignment preferred by the (formerly named) Colorado Departments of Highways (CDOH).

In 1974, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) awarded the interstate project from Mack to the state line first place for “Outstanding Section of Highway in its Rural Environment” in its annual national awards competition. The award cited the design featuring long, sweeping curves that were carefully fitted into the desert terrain, as well as molded rock slopes, staining and coloration of bridges and guardrails that blended into the arid landscape. One of the judges in that competition noted the work to make the freeway blend into its environment “remarkable.”

Pushing I-70 west from Grand Junction to the Utah line, a distance 30 miles, was accomplished over a six-year period as follows:

  • Horizon Drive to 22 Road (5 miles), completed in 1967;
  • 22 Road to Fruit (6 miles), completed in 1969;
  • Fruita to Mack (8 miles), completed in 1972; and
  • Mack to the Utah Border (11 miles), completed in 1973.

“That was an interesting time in Department of Highway's history,” noted CDOT Region 3 Transportation Director Dave Eller, whose office is located in Grand Junction.  “Our history is full of great stories about the building of I-70 in western Colorado, and I know we have many Department of Highways retirees living in the Grand Valley area who remember those projects, who worked on them, and who were likely in attendance 40 years ago at Rabbit Valley.  That was a great day for western Colorado.”

CDOT provided a chip seal resurfacing on I-70 from the Utah state line to Mack just this past May. A chip seal resurfacing is the application of liquid asphalt and rock material (or aggregates) to a roadway, followed by sweeping and protective coating. A chip seal is a preventative maintenance measure designed to extend the life of a highway that is in good/fair condition for five to 10 years, depending upon traffic volumes and climate. Prior to that, in 2007, CDOT provided a two-inch asphalt overlay from MP 0 to 5; and in 2005, from MP 5 to 11.6