Eagle The Interstate 70 corridor is in danger because of traffic congestion that negatively impacts the economy, decreases mobility and compromises safety, according to a newly released document.
But because the interstate runs through Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, the natural environment is a major concern, and practically a roadblock, for fixing problems along the road, says the report, which was 10 years in the making.
“The protection of the narrow mountain valleys, existing historic communities and extensive natural resources is critical to the state of Colorado and the communities in the corridor; and these resources (along with natural hazards) define critical constraints for transportation solutions in the corridor,” according to the report.
The final version of the I-70 document was recently released by the Colorado Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration after public hearings and recommendations from a group of regional stakeholders. The document, officially called a programmatic environmental impact statement, is the first part of a two-part phase that identifies and examines a broad spectrum of transportation improvements. This first phase will not result in any construction or actual impacts, but it will guide the second part of the process, which should ultimately result in changes along the corridor.
The process is required under the National Environmental Policy Act before any major changes can be made along the 144-mile Interstate 70 corridor.
State Rep. Millie Hamner told about 20 local residents at an Edwards town hall meeting Saturday that she’s carrying a bill this legislative session that charges the Colorado Department of Transportation to come up with short-term fixes by next year.
“Long-term solutions will cost money, and we don’t have the money right now,” Hamner said.
She said the corridor is a huge problem, and there needs to be something done soon that can ease some of the pain.
A group of stakeholders identified a “multimodal” solution for I-70, meaning the answer is to add other forms of transportation to the corridor aside from just vehicles. The group’s findings are known collectively as the “preferred alternative” in the final document released last week.
That preferred alternative states that transit fixes along I-70 should improve safety and mobility, should be adaptive to broader global trends in the future, should meet the needs of all environmental and legal requirements, should preserve and enhance local resources and ecosystem functions and should be economically viable.
The noninfrastructure-related components in that preferred alternative for the corridor include driver education, increased enforcement, use of technology and transit incentives, to name a few.
The group also concluded that a so-called Advanced Guideway System would be needed along the corridor — in other words, a high-speed guideway system such as rail. There will be multiple studies completed in the coming months and years of such a rail system to determine whether it could be built, according to the document.
By 2020, the Colorado Department of Transportation and Federal Highways Administration will reassess the purpose and effectiveness of this latest document’s listed alternatives and may reconsider all of the options, if necessary.