22 August 2005

144 Miles.

There are 144 miles of interstate highway I-70 between Golden, Colorado, and Glenwood Springs, Colorado, which runs through the Rocky Mountains. This highway is the principal point of access to Colorado's ski resorts and it is also one of the five main routes by which cars and trucks make it across the continental divide. I've drove the route both ways on a regular basis when I lived in Grand Junction, Colorado, and still take it to go to resorts in the mountains. (Grand Junction is rarely a destination for someone who lives in Denver).

The road has some of the most extreme grades (i.e. steep hills) of any highway in the interstate highway system, curves a lot to meet the demands of the mountains, and is a parking lot on prime powder weekends. It is also prone to being shut down by avalanches, rock slides and snow storms. If civilization comes to an end, I-70 will be one of the first links in the interstate highway system to be rendered impassable by the forces of nature. Traffic is increasing, although I'm skeptical of the claim that:

"If no major improvements are made along the corridor to accommodate this huge growth, the travel times between Glenwood Springs to C-470 for a distance of 144 miles would be approximately 460 minutes." That's a whopping 7.6 hours, folks. "Without improvements, the duration of a trip from C-470 to Vail will go from 1 hour 38 minutes to 3 hours 52 minutes by 2025[.]"

The draft environmental impact statement for future construction on I-70 consider a number of problems to address the highway's anticipated shortcomings. In a nutshell, they consider two highway improvement options -- a six lane highway designed for a 55 mph speed limit and a six lane highway designed for a 65 mph speed limit, as well as a number of transit options from high tech rail to a dedicated bus lane to a reversible high occupancy vehicle lane (like the one on I-25 from downtown to highway 36 to Boulder). The plan claims that doing anything more than being "public transit ready" is too expensive. I'm skeptical of that conclusion and of the traffic models that assume that people will continue to prefer roads to transit even when it takes 8 hours to drive from Glenwood Springs to Golden. Read the report (the executive summary, despite it's name is more than 50 pages long and has copious illustrations), and decide for yourself.

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