Federal, state and local dignitaries gathered in Idaho Springs on May 3 to mark the next major milestone in the Colorado Dept. of Transportation’s Interstate 70 Twin Tunnels Project—the beginning of major rock blasting and removal activities to widen the eastbound tunnel bore.

“The major rock blasting marks the beginning of this critical transportation project that will improve safety and provide some travel savings, all of which we can enjoy by the end of the year,” said CDOT Executive Director Don Hunt. “This is not only a significant milestone for CDOT, but for our transportation partners as well. We wouldn’t be here today without the support from Idaho Springs, Clear Creek County and FHWA.”

Widening the eastbound tunnel to accommodate three lanes of traffic involves first using large drilling equipment to create holes in the rock in which explosives can be packed for a controlled, localized blast that removes a targeted section of rock. 
Kraemer-Obayashi, the contractor, is using two sets of drilling equipment to speed up the tunnel blasting and widening process. Eastbound I-70 traffic is expected to be moving through the new tunnel by the end of this year.

The $106-million Twin Tunnels Project adds one eastbound lane from the East Idaho Springs interchange to U.S. 6, including expanding the eastbound tunnel to include three lanes, shoulders, improved lighting and a wider entrance to encourage eastbound traffic to continue driving into the tunnel without braking. 
This is the first of several projects designed to improve safety and mobility along the I-70 mountain corridor.

These projects are expected to collectively reduce roadway congestion and improve travel times and safety by reducing accidents by an estimated 35% and saving Sunday travelers approximately  $11.4 million in travel time and fuel costs in 2014.

“I’m excited to see this project come to fruition through our partnership with CDOT,” said Idaho Springs Mayor Jack Morgan. “These improvements will provide our residents, businesses and visitors better access to all that Idaho Springs and other mountain communities have to offer.”