The shift, set for early Wednesday morning, is the first of several milestones this year. Others would see all traffic placed in its final configuration between Brighton and Colorado boulevards by late summer and installation of a 4-acre cover park over the highway in the fall.
Since last spring, both directions of I-70 in that 1.8-mile stretch — the final remaining major project zone — have been shoe-horned into the eventual westbound side of a new, recessed highway built north of the interstate’s old viaduct. The May 2021 traffic shift off the viaduct allowed for that 57-year-old structure’s demolition, which made room to dig out the new eastbound side beneath it.
Weather permitting, Wednesday’s rerouting of eastbound traffic will make use of a roughly seven-block portion of that eastbound side, between Steele Street/Vasquez Boulevard and Colorado Boulevard.
The Colorado Department of Transportation says the shift will free up space between the eastbound and westbound lanes so that crews can begin installing intelligent transportation systems that are necessary to operate new tolled express lanes.
The nearly $1.3 billion highway widening and reconstruction project broke ground in 2018, running from Interstate 25 to Chambers Road in Aurora. The project aimed to bring the highway up to modern standards, with full shoulders, and add a managed toll lane in each direction while leaving space for a second express lane in a future project. Construction in the central and eastern project zones is largely done.
The contracting team, Kiewit-Meridiam Partners, reported the Central 70 project to be 85% complete as of the most recent monthly progress report.
The project has made smoother progress in the last year after weathering earlier setbacks that resulted in delays and added project costs that the contracting team largely shouldered through a major debt refinancing. The “substantial completion” milestone, originally planned for this month, is now forecast for late January 2023 — though CDOT project officials recently said they were working with KMP to reel that back to December.
In the western project zone, project workers recently finished pouring a concrete deck over the eastbound side, extending the previously installed westbound cover over the entire highway. The cover essentially creates a 1,000-foot tunnel between Columbine and Clayton streets and will serve as the foundation for the new park.
Community meetings produced a final park design that includes a central plaza, a playground, basketball courts, a multi-purpose playing field, an events lawn, a splash pad and a community space.