CDOT wins $100 million federal grant for I-70 Floyd Hill project

The federal government will chip in $100 million toward CDOT’s next big project: a drastic rebuilding of Interstate 70 at Floyd Hill that, in the latest designs, would smooth out its sharpest curve by crossing westbound traffic over the eastbound side.

That bridge configuration, which would flip the usual traffic flow through part of Clear Creek Canyon after the turn at the bottom of Floyd Hill, is the most striking aspect of emerging designs for the $700 million, six-mile rebuilding and widening project. The Colorado Department of Transportation announced late Friday that it had won the competitive federal grant through the Nationally Significant Multimodal Freight and Highway Projects grant program, expanded by the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill approved by Congress.

CDOT had gone big, applying for a $240 million grant for its costliest upcoming project. But a spokesman noted that $100 million is more than CDOT has received through any prior single grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Regardless, CDOT has $260 million pledged from its bridge enterprise. Thanks to a recent influx in state transportation funding, it has plenty of options to cover the rest of the cost, including state priority project funding and expected toll revenue from an extension of the westbound mountain express lane, which would address the current bottleneck where that side of I-70 narrows from three lanes to two.

“Everyone who travels the I-70 mountain corridor knows Floyd Hill as the first place where you get stuck in traffic as you leave Denver,” Gov. Jared Polis said in a news release. “Getting this traffic jam fixed has been a priority for my administration for years, and it is a centerpiece of our Ten Year Plan for transportation.”

Major construction could begin early next year. CDOT is working with its construction manager, Kraemer North America, and lead designer Atkins, to dial in the final design as they contend with the rising cost of materials and other inflationary pressures.

Plans call for rebuilding the highway starting at the top of Floyd Hill and rerouting it significantly as it travels through the canyon, all the way to the Veterans Memorial Tunnels. The goal is to make the twisty corridor a gentler drive, reducing slowdowns. Long stretches, especially on the westbound side, likely will be raised on viaducts.

The plan also includes rerouting Clear Creek and extending frontage roads and a recreation path. Side projects that could begin late this year or in early 2023 will build roundabouts at intersections on side roads and wildlife crossings and fencing near I-70’s Genesee and Empire exits.

Construction is expected to take four or five years, but CDOT says much of the work will be performed off the highway and overhead, reducing the impact on traffic.

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