The Denver Post

Fixing I-70 doesn’t require Olympics

- By Dan Gibbs and Jill Ryan Guest Commentary Dan Gibbs is a Summit County Commission­er and serves as chair of the I-70 Coalition. Jill Ryan is an Eagle County Commission­er and serves as vice chair of the I-70 Coalition

Denver’s Olympic and Paralympic Explorator­y Committee recently announced its recommenda­tion that Colorado should pursue hosting a future Winter Games. This has generated a tremendous amount of interest and discussion.

One of the issues that consistent­ly comes up is I-70. Can an already congested highway handle the additional traffic a Winter Games would generate between Denver and our mountain communitie­s? Could hosting the Olympics grease the wheels for solutions to our congestion problems on I-70?

What gets lost in all the discussion — and what is important for Coloradans to know — is that there is an existing plan for the I-70 Mountain Corridor. And regardless of whether Colorado ever hosts a future Olympic Games, we must continue to move forward with this plan, because it is the answer to the frustratin­g conditions we experience on the interstate.

This plan was issued by the Federal Highway Administra­tion (FHWA) and the Colorado Department of Transporta­tion (CDOT) in June 2011. A product of years-long debate among a diverse group of stakeholde­rs stretching from Denver to the Western Slope, it calls for both expansion of the interstate and high-speed mass transit. Extensive technical analysis concluded that such a multi-modal approach was the only way to meet the corridor’s capacity needs through the year 2050.

Some progress has been made in implementi­ng this plan. For example, the Veterans Memorial Tunnels have been expanded, and the eastbound Mountain Express Lane has been built. Other highway improvemen­ts are planned, including a westbound Mountain Express Lane, lane widening and redesign at Floyd Hill.

These fixes alone are not enough, however. As the analysis determined, highway improve- ments must be completed in conjunctio­n with high-speed transit. One without the other will not solve the problem; both are needed to meet the longterm needs of this critical corridor.

And this is where more needs to be done. There is a long-held perception that high-speed transit is some far-off, prohibitiv­ely expensive fantasy. Not necessaril­y so.

Under CDOT’s leadership, Colorado has become ground zero for a revolution in transporta­tion technology. The private sector is in a race to build new transit technologi­es in our state that are expected to be operationa­l in just two to three years. Public-private partnershi­p models can reduce costs, and these companies are also exploring ways their systems can pay for themselves, whether through fares or other means.

This is a game changer. These technologi­es can work in the mountain corridor. They are efficient, safe and weatherpro­of. They would provide a permanent and long-standing solution to congestion in the corridor and would showcase Colorado to the world as a leader in sustainabl­e transporta­tion. Moreover, they would help address the congestion caused by tourist traffic that many of our mountain communitie­s are experienci­ng while still ensuring tourists can get to those communitie­s.

The earliest we would host an Olympic Games is 2030. We can and should make a lot of progress on the I-70 plan in the interim. Regardless of whether Denver secures a future Olympics, Colorado must continue to move forward with the implementa­tion of the plan for I-70.

 ?? Daniel Brenner, Special to The Denver Post ?? Colorado has a plan to relieve the congestion problems along I-70 in the mountains.
Daniel Brenner, Special to The Denver Post Colorado has a plan to relieve the congestion problems along I-70 in the mountains.
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