The Latest Obstacles to I-70's Zipper Lanes

January 2011

While Vail Resorts says visits are up for the first part of the 2010-11 ski season (see previous entry), fewer vehicles traveled through the Eisenhower/Johnson Memorial Tunnels on I-70 last year than in 2009. That's the second time traffic at the tunnels has decreased in the past three years, reports the Vail Daily. In all, more than 11.3 million cars traveled through the tunnel, down 2.9 percent from 2009. "Our best explanation for the lower traffic numbers is carpooling," says tunnel superintendent Mike Salamon. "The park-and-ride lots, like those at the Hogback [I-70/Morrison Road], are very full on weekends." But that's just an observation, he says, and more study would be needed to verify it before making that case.

Meanwhile, the proposed reversible lanes known as "zipper lanes," which are meant to further ease the Sunday-afternoon rush back to the Denver area from mountain resorts, would carry a number of complications, points out another Daily article. While the lanes could cut travel time in half during peak hours during the ski season, travel times for people heading west would double, as westbound pavement is dedicated to eastbound traffic. Moreover, accidents would likely increase along the 13-mile stretch from Georgetown to the bottom of Floyd Hill.

Another concern is cost. Clear Creek County Commissioner Kevin O'Malley thinks the zipper lanes, which at the moment are slated to be open roughly 17 days a year, might not be worth the project's expected $23 million price tag. Another alternative would be to use shoulder space on eastbound lanes to create a third lane, although the shoulder ends at the twin tunnels.