DENVER -- CDOT is preparing to widen a busy stretch of I-25 between Colorado's two largest cities.
The 18-mile stretch of roadway south of Castle Rock is known as the gap, because there have been no significant improvements since the two-lane roadway first opened. It's still two lanes wide.
A stamp in the concrete of the Tomah Road bridge indicates that it was built in 1965.
"Traffic and population have grown dramatically," CDOT spokeswoman Tamara Rollison said, "and will continue to do so."
By 2050, Metro Denver's population is expected to reach 4.3 million, from the current 2.9 million. El Paso County will jump from 622,000 to about 1.07 million.
Rollison told Denver7 that the road isn't wide enough to handle current traffic, especially on summer weekends, let alone expected future increases.
So, CDOT wants to widen the shoulders and add an extra "express lane" in each direction.
Rollison said between the years 2011 and 2015 there were:
- 1800 crashes
- 600 with injuries
- And 6 involving traffic fatalities
Two of the fatalities involved state troopers.
“That’s really is our biggest reason to improve the gap,” Rollison said, “to save lives."
Angie Orndorff said whenever there's an accident in the gap, traffic tie-ups can last hours.
"There's no place for people to pull off," she said. "There are guardrails on both sides of the highway.
Rather than add express lanes, Orndorff said CDOT should just spend money to widen the shoulders and add pull out zones, for safety.
At a public meeting last night in Castle Rock, several drivers said adding an express lane in each direction won't address the expected traffic increase.
"They need more lanes in addition to the express lanes," one driver said.
Another took issue with plans for the express lanes.
"How much are they going to charge," he asked.
Another driver, Phillip Gulvin, told Denver7 he agrees with the need to widen the highway, but added they shouldn't be toll lanes.
"I use I-25 quite a bit, to get to Cripple Creek," he said. "I was excited about the plans, until I learned about the tolls. Now, I'm thinking this is not going to help me out a bit. It's going to help those out there who can afford it."
CDOT said express lanes are the only realistic way Colorado can afford to expand highways because the existing gas tax barely brings in enough money to pay for the maintenance of existing highways.
Rollison says there will always be a "free alternative," noting that the existing lanes will remain general purpose without a toll.
She said traffic flow will improve on those lanes as some drivers opt for the express lanes.
CDOT talked about the plans for "the gap" during a public meeting last night at the Douglas County Fairgrounds.
Cost & Funding
Rollison said construction on the the $350-million project could begin in late 2018, if they wrap up all the financing.
She said the state has earmarked $250-million. El Paso and Douglas Counties are kicking in some money and CDOT is waiting for a reply from the federal government about a request for $65-million.
"We won't know about that until Spring," she said.