EVERGREEN — At the base of Floyd Hill on Interstate 70 is a bottleneck that causes notorius traffic during the winter months. One of the goals of a Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) project is to help alleviate that congestion.
The I-70 Floyd Hill Project will cover eight miles of the highway from Evergreen to Idaho Springs.
“The Floyd Hill project stems from an environmental assessment, which started in 2017,” said Presley Fowler, a spokesperson with CDOT. “We did a groundbreaking back in October to celebrate the start of some of the early projects that are starting, which include roundabouts on US 40, and then a wildlife underpass at I-70 and Genessee… As far as the big I-70, Floyd Hill Project, that kicks off in May 2023 of this year.”
One of the biggest improvements in the massive project includes adding a third lane in the two-lane bottleneck of westbound I-70.
“The thing that people will be looking forward to the most is getting rid of the bottleneck on I-70,” said Fowler. “Basically, at the bottom of Floyd Hill into where there’s already a westbound mountain express lane, this lane would just connect with that.”
In total, the entire Floyd Hill project is expected to be completed in 2028.
One couple who has lived in Everygreen for decades said the traffic during ski season has become an absolute nightmare.
“It’s like hell,” said Richard Friend, who is going on 23 years living in Evergreen. “I was born and raised in Denver. I wanted to get away from it all, but it looks like it all came to me.”
Richard’s wife Evelyn took photographs on Friday evening, showing the bumper to bumper traffic they have become accustomed to seeing.
“It’s just unbelievably crowded,” said Evelyn. “I’ve lived here close to 40 years, and we’ve just never seen traffic like this, and never been worried about being able to get in and out of our house, or be able to go somewhere on Saturday without having to worry about traffic.”
The couple said the ski traffic sometimes stretches from Thursday to Sunday. They have adjusted their schedule for grocery shopping and errands because of it, but Evelyn cannot change her work schedule.
Evelyn works as a pharmacist at Porter Adventist Hospital. She works seven days on and seven days off, and said her commute to the metro from Evergreen takes around 30 to 40 minutes, when traffic is moving along nicely.
“The last two years coming home from work, it’s been a nightmare,” Evelyn said. “It’s just actually impossible for me to get home from work.”
She said the longest it has taken her to get home from the hospital has been around two and a half hours, more than quadrupling her standard drive time.
“The goal with the Floyd Hill project is to get that travel time back to what people should be able to rely on,” Fowler said. “There’s going to be a little bit of short-term pain for long-term gain, as far as there’s going to be some traffic impacts that are going to continue throughout construction.”
The early roundabout projects that are smaller scale also concern Richard and Evelyn.
“They’re going to put a circle here, which we don’t see how any large trucks can actually maneuver,” Evelyn said, pointing to the area where one roundabout will be constructed at Homestead Road and US 40.
Fowler said US 40 will be widened to accomodate for larger vehicles, like semi-trucks, to navigate the roundabout.
“The roundabout is supposed to help with more of a continuous travel pattern,” Fowler said. “There’s going to be traffic impacts for the project. But, there’s never going to be, you know, a closure that would not allow them to get out of their neighborhood or to get onto I-70.”
The roundabout project should last through the fall of this year.
Despite the concerns of the couple, they would still choose living in the mountains over the city any day.
“It’s just completely frustrating,” said Richard. “But, it is 99% worth it to still live up here.”