Huge Jams Expected in Weekend Lane Closures for Delayed C-470 Project

A crew pours concrete for the South Platte Bridge during work on the C-470 project.
A crew pours concrete for the South Platte Bridge during work on the C-470 project.
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The construction-related traffic challenges just keep coming for Denver-area drivers, and the latest, associated with the long-delayed C-470 project, looks like it'll be a doozy. Following a complete overnight closure beginning tonight, February 14, eastbound traffic through the key University Boulevard-to-Quebec Street section will be down to a single lane for the entire weekend.

Even the Colorado Department of Transportation, which tries not to induce panic at times like these, warns motorists to expect delays of up to half an hour — which likely means they'll be even longer. Note that according to a CDOT tweet, yesterday's I-70 shutdown between Frisco and Vail, which began at 11 a.m. and was supposed to be over by early afternoon, didn't actually end until around 4 p.m.

Fallout from this project, involving the installation of express lanes along a roughly 12.5-mile span from the Wadsworth Boulevard exit to the intersection of C-470 and Interstate 25, was supposed to be over a long time ago. A November 2016 CDOT fact sheet about the effort states that construction would begin that fall, but for our May 2018 update about the completion of major milestones on the highway, CDOT's Stacia Sellers put the actual start date at August 2017. However, Sellers stuck with the fact sheet's completion date of spring 2019, approximately a year from then.

That didn't happen, and late last summer, CDOT acknowledged this tardiness by way of a statement that seemed to throw shade at Flatiron and AECOM, the undertaking's two major contractors. It reads: "As has been reported and the traveling public can continue to see, the C-470 Tolled Express Lanes project was not completed by its August 1, 2019 deadline. CDOT and the project contractor, Flatiron-AECOM, will proceed through proper legal channels to resolve the issues that brought the project to this point. All parties involved share the goal of delivering a high-quality, safe road for Coloradans as soon as possible."

When asked last September whether spring 2019 or August 1 was the original completion target, CDOT's Matt Inzeo replied, "'Original' is a tricky word. There have been some additional back-and-forths, but August 1 was the scheduled completion date." After a pause, he added, "The claim of delay came from the contractors, and I can't speak for them. But we wanted this project to be completed on August 1, and it wasn't."

Back then, CDOT predicted that everything would finally be wrapped up between December and spring of 2020. Obviously, the former time frame has already come and gone, and the latter looks iffy in the extreme. Last month, Tamara Rollison, communications manager for CDOT's Region 1, laid out a timeline that appears to stretch into the summer, at least.

This weekend's festivities are illustrated by this graphic:

The section of C-470 that will be impacted by the weekend lane closures.
The section of C-470 that will be impacted by the weekend lane closures.

According to CDOT, traffic from University to Quebec will be closed at 9 p.m. tonight. Then, at 7 a.m. tomorrow, February 15, eastbound traffic will be limited to a single lane until 5:30 a.m. on Monday, February 17.

The goal: to "replace damaged permanent concrete panels."

CDOT maintains that by doing everything over the weekend, the department will be able to "eliminate more than twenty extended nighttime closures and additional construction for detour routes.

Additionally, crews will put a single right-lane closure in place on the westbound C-470 off-ramp to Wadsworth from 9 p.m. tonight to 5:30 a.m. on the 17th. During that period, workers will "complete drainage activities on the off-ramp."

As for alternate eastbound routes overnight and through the course of the weekend, CDOT advises drivers to exit at University, head north to County Lane Road, then turn right and continue to Quebec. Another right will lead back to C-470. Estimated detour length: four miles and six to eight minutes of additional drive time.

Of course, all of this is weather-dependent; note that an overnight closure and lane shift on I-70 near Brighton Boulevard was snowed out circa February 6 and has yet to be rescheduled. But current forecasts don't call for more of the white stuff in the metro area until Monday, after all C-470 lanes are supposed to be open again.

Happy Valentine's Day! Click to access the Colorado Department of Transportation's C-470 Express Lanes project page.

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