I-70 West Vail Pass Auxiliary Lanes project enters winter shutdown, heavy construction starts spring 2022

Travel Advisory

November 22, 2021 - Emergency truck ramp complete, major highway work remains

EAGLE COUNTY — The I-70 West Vail Pass Auxiliary Lanes project began a planned winter hiatus on Monday, Nov. 22. The project began in August with reconstruction of the westbound Interstate 70 emergency truck ramp near Mile Point 182, just east of East Vail. Crews also focused on utility work for a westbound highway closure system near Mile Point 190, at the top of Vail Pass. As the project team prepares for the winter shutdown, the project is on schedule and on budget. Here is an update of work completed in 2021 and what’s to come in 2022.

Work Accomplished in 2021

  • Truck Ramp Reconstruction
  • A large part of the I-70 West Vail Pass Auxiliary Lanes project is dedicated to safety improvements throughout the project limits. As part of these improvements, crews have reconstructed the emergency truck ramp at Mile Point 182 to remove a sharp right curve that was difficult for truck drivers to safely navigate. The new ramp is straight to help prevent rollovers and hazardous spills.
  • Should a rollover still occur, however, crews installed a containment system under the ramp that includes a geomembrane to prevent potential fuel, oil or hazardous material spills from entering the soil or impacting Gore Creek. Materials will funnel to a settling basin for safe removal, protecting the surrounding environment.
  • This ramp at MP 182 was used 14 times between 2016-2018.
  • Highway Closure System Gate
  • Preliminary work on information technology service improvements began with utility work for a westbound highway closure system at the I-70 Mile Point 190 interchange and future variable speed limit and message signs.

Season Shutdown

From November 2021 until spring 2022, crews will stop work for the winter season. There is the potential for minor work along the shoulders but no lane closures, night or weekend work are expected. Motorists are encouraged to drive with caution, especially during the winter with unpredictable weather and road conditions.

Work Beginning in 2022

Project crews will return in spring 2022 to start the following work:

  • Recreational Trail Improvements
  • Relocation of two miles of the Vail Pass recreational trail away from the interstate will create a safer and more enjoyable experience for trail users.
  • Roadway Preparation for Eastbound Auxiliary Lane Construction
  • Preliminary work for the eastbound auxiliary lane between Mile Points 185 and 190 begins next season with utility relocations and detour paving that will be used during road construction in 2023.

When complete, slower moving vehicles will have a dedicated space to climb the steep grades over Vail Pass. This lane will create separation between the faster-moving passenger vehicles and slower-moving trucks that often results in inconsistent travel times along the corridor.

Wildlife Crossings

Over the next several construction seasons, CDOT is adding six wildlife underpasses under Interstate 70 and adding fencing along the highway to prevent wildlife-vehicle collisions.

Mile Point 185.3 Bridge Construction

Crews will begin work to replace the structurally-deficient bridges at Mile Point 185.3. When complete, the new bridges will accommodate the added eastbound auxiliary lane and widen the inside shoulders to six feet.

CDOT recently added the westbound bridge to the phase one improvements package, which will replace the structurally deficient bridge and bring the highway curve to today’s design standards. By replacing the westbound bridge first, crews can move the eastbound bridge further from Black Gore Creek and shorten the future eastbound bridge span, reducing impacts to the creek habitat. The addition of the westbound Mile Point 185.3 bridge reconstruction extends the project’s completion date to December 2025.

About the Project

Vail Pass is a dramatic and challenging section of I-70 in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. Completed in 1979, the pass as we know it has struggled to keep up with Colorado's growing population and traffic while still serving as an essential connection in Colorado and the nation’s transportation network. Vail Pass is also subject to extreme weather and harsh natural elements. The resulting wear and tear and challenging driving conditions come at a cost: the crash rate on Vail Pass is the highest for all of I-70 in Colorado, per million vehicle miles traveled, with 558 crashes from 2014 to 2016. The INFRA grant will save taxpayer dollars by helping reduce accidents and minimize costly detours. The estimated economic impact for detours is $1 million for every hour I-70 is closed.

Design of the I-70 West Vail Pass Auxiliary Lanes project started in early 2021 on the Phase 1 INFRA improvements that have identified funding. The Phase 1 INFRA improvements include:

  • An eastbound I-70 auxiliary lane with widened shoulders between Mile Points 185 and 190
  • Westbound curve modifications with widened shoulders at Mile Point 186 and 188
  • Bridge replacement at westbound and eastbound Mile Point 185.3
  • Truck ramp reconstruction at Mile Point 182
  • Improved signage and incorporation of Active Traffic Management system
    Variable speed limit signs
  • Highway closure system
  • Six wildlife underpasses and fencing
  • Two miles of Vail Pass recreational trail relocation between Mile Points 185 and 187

Work on these funded improvements is scheduled to be complete by the end of 2025.

Project & Travel Info

For additional information about this project, contact the project team.

  • Project hotline: 970-688-8233
  • Project email: [email protected]
  • Project web page: https://www.codot.gov/projects/i70westvailauxiliarylanes/construction

Travelers are urged to “know before you go.” Gather information about weather forecasts, anticipated travel impacts, and current road conditions prior to hitting the road. CDOT resources include:

  • Road conditions and travel information: COtrip.org
  • Download the COtrip Planner app: bit.ly/3DYCDOH
  • Sign up for project or travel alerts: bit.ly/COalerts
  • See scheduled construction lane closures: bit.ly/3n9ZAI1
  • Connect with @ColoradoDOT on social media: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

Remember: Slow For The Cone Zone

The following tips are to help you stay safe while traveling through maintenance and construction work zones.

  • Do not speed in work zones. Obey the posted speed limits.
  • Stay Alert! Expect the unexpected.
  • Watch for workers. Drive with caution.
  • Don't change lanes unnecessarily.
  • Avoid using mobile devices such as phones while driving in work zones.
  • Turn on headlights so that workers and other drivers can see you.
  • Be especially alert at night while driving in work zones.
  • Expect delays, especially during peak travel times.
  • Allow ample space between you and the car in front of you.
  • Anticipate lane shifts and merge when directed to do so.
  • Be patient!

About CDOT

CDOT’s Whole System-Whole Safety program has one simple mission — to get everyone home safely. Our approximately 3,000 employees work tirelessly to reduce the rate and severity of crashes and improve the safety of all modes of transportation. The department manages more than 23,000 lane miles of highway, more than 3,000 bridges and 35 mountain passes. CDOT also manages grant partnerships with a range of agencies, including metropolitan planning organizations, local governments and airports. It also operates Bustang, the state-owned interregional express bus service. Gov. Jared Polis has charged CDOT to further build on the state’s intermodal mobility options.