I-70 West Vail Pass project enters scheduled winter shutdown

Project Update

December 11, 2023 - Northwestern Colorado - New westbound bridge provides safety improvements in time for winter
I-70 bridges at Mile Point 185
Aerial view of the I-70 bridges at Mile Point 185. The new westbound bridge is seen on the right side prior to opening to traffic

Eagle County — Crews have made significant progress on the I-70 West Vail Pass Auxiliary Lanes project and work is decreasing for the season. The project began a planned winter hiatus on Friday, Dec. 8.

Winter Traffic Impacts

  • During the winter shutdown, I-70 will return to its standard configuration to avoid interfering with winter tourism travel, snow removal and maintenance operations.
  • Motorists should anticipate typical lane and shoulder widths unless there are roadway emergency incidents.
  • The Vail Pass recreation path conditions are weather dependent. Regular path maintenance will resume in the late-spring and summer.
  • Motorists are encouraged to drive with caution, especially during the winter with unpredictable weather and road conditions.
  • Road work will resume in spring 2024.

“The project is part of CDOT’s statewide 10-year plan and focuses on significant safety improvements for the I-70 mountain corridor,” said CDOT Executive Director Shoshana Lew. “The size and location of this project require more than one construction season. It is necessary to reduce crashes and improve travel times for travelers on this section of I-70, which has the highest crash rate for all of I-70 in Colorado.”

As the project enters its third winter shutdown, here’s a look at the work accomplished and what’s to come.

Work Accomplished to Date

  • Westbound bridge, improved curve geometry and new wall
    The central focus of this season’s construction work, crews completed a new westbound I-70 bridge over Polk Creek at Mile Point 185.2, which is now open to westbound traffic. The new bridge is designed to have a 100-year lifespan, improved curve geometry to accommodate modern highway speeds, and three lanes and standard-width shoulders. This third lane on the bridge provides more room for emergency response vehicles if traffic lanes are blocked and will accommodate the eventual addition of a third lane along westbound Vail Pass.
    Rebuilding both I-70 bridges in this area is critical as each has been identified as structurally deficient. Starting with the westbound bridge offers several advantages. By building the westbound bridge to the north of the existing structure, the new eastbound bridge will also shift to the north, reducing the length of the eastbound bridge by more than half, saving time and money. Moving the eastbound bridge to the north will also move it further from Black Gore Creek, reducing its impact on the creek habitat. The eastbound bridge will be a focus of the 2024 construction season.
  • Relocation of Vail Pass recreation path

    The nearly two-mile section of the Vail Pass recreation path rebuilt in summer 2022 was enjoyed by thousands this riding season. During construction of the new westbound bridge spanning over the recreation path, construction crews maintained trail access with limited interruptions for safety-critical work. This year, a portion of the US 6 trail was relocated to make room for the new bridge and highway alignment.

    The recreation trail improvements provide a safer and more enjoyable trail experience and allow for the necessary room to widen eastbound I-70 for the new auxiliary lane. Careful drainage considerations and new collection basins help to prevent roadway sediment from entering Black Gore Creek.

  • Truck ramp reconstruction
    An early project improvement, crews 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, which is straight to help prevent rollovers and hazardous spills, has already been used in 18 emergencies since opening in 2021.
  • Highway closure system gate
    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.
New wall installed on I-70 at MP 185 on the westbound bridge
Crews built a new retaining wall to create room for the improved roadway geometry and the MP 185 westbound bridge.

Improvements Scheduled for 2024 through 2026

Many of the project improvements to date are in preparation for the upcoming roadway widening work for construction of the eastbound auxiliary lane. Crews will return in spring 2024 with the focus on starting the eastbound I-70 bridge, roadway widening and wildlife underpasses. Construction also includes temporary pavement widening along the westbound lanes so eastbound traffic can be shifted over during bridge construction, significant wall work and the remaining portion of the recreation path beneath the new highway bridge.

Lane closure impacts are expected to increase in the next construction phase due to the nature of the roadway work. Work on these improvements is scheduled to begin in 2024 and will be complete by the end of 2026, with regular construction pauses each winter.

  • Eastbound MP 185 bridge
    The counterpart to the new westbound bridge at MP 185.2, crews will return in the spring to demolish the old structurally-deficient westbound bridge and then begin construction of the eastbound bridge in the footprint of the old westbound bridge.
  • Eastbound auxiliary lane construction
    Construction of the eastbound I-70 auxiliary lane between Mile Points 185 and 190 is scheduled to begin 2024. 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
    Significant work is scheduled to begin in 2024 on the six wildlife underpasses — two for large animals and four for small to medium-sized animals. These crossings will go under I-70 between approximately Mile Points 187 and 190. Fencing is also being added along the highway between Mile Points 185 and 190 to prevent wildlife-vehicle collisions.

Project Information

For additional information about this project:

Know Before You Go

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