A new chapter of construction on the Interstate 25 “Gap” kicked off Monday with a 12-hour lane closure that began just as rush hour traffic was winding down.
At 6 p.m. Monday, the northbound, left lane of I-25 was closed for 1.5 miles south of Greenland Road as crews started prepping for a traffic shift to happen later this month. The lane, along with the Exit 166 off-ramp to Greenland Road, were expected to reopen at 6 a.m. Tuesday, said the Colorado Department of Transportation.
By the end of June, the entire length of I-25 from Monument to Castle Rock will be under construction as crews add a toll lane in each direction, widening it from two to three lanes on each side. The 18-mile stretch, known as the Gap, will be the longest work zone in the state, said CDOT spokesman Bob Wilson.
The entire project is expected to be completed in 2022. Its $350 million price tag is being paid with $250 million from the state, $65 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation and $35 million from local governments, including El Paso and Douglas counties.
Work is already underway in the Gap’s northern and southern segments. From Castle Rock to Sky View Lane, traffic has been shifted toward the outside of the roadway as crews begin building new lanes near the median. Similar shifts are taking place south of Greenland Road, where crews also are adding wildlife crossings and burying utility and fiber-optic lines.
Those zones have seen overnight lane closures, typically from 8 or 9 p.m. to about 5:30 a.m., Wilson said.
But Monday’s closure marked the first time that a lane in the project was to close for 12 full hours, from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.
And it won’t be the last time, Wilson said.
Throughout June, other lane closures will take place on northbound I-25 near Greenland Road as crews establish a temporary lane to allow northbound traffic to cross to the highway’s southbound side, where a barrier will separate it from vehicles traveling in the opposite direction. The shift will enable reconstruction to start on the east half of the interchange, Wilson said.
Once the eastern side of the Greenland Road interchange is rebuilt, traffic will be moved to the interstate’s northbound side to complete the western half of the crossing. Wilson didn’t have an estimated completion date for the new interchange but said it will be a modern underpass with two lanes instead of one.
As construction in the Gap progresses, CDOT will keep two lanes open in each direction during daytime, barring emergencies, he said.
From 7 p.m. Thursday to 5 a.m. Friday, the right lane of I-25 northbound between County Line and Greenland roads will be closed for crews to set bridge beams, according to CDOT.
The overnight lane closures are expected to lead to traffic backups. But CDOT would rather begin the northbound closures earlier in the evening than end them later the following morning. “That way, we can get off the road sooner for northbound traffic because the commuter traffic gets heavy in the morning,” Wilson said.
Vehicle crashes or breakdowns during the closures likely will lengthen delays, especially because the single lanes will have very little shoulder space.
Normally, drivers are encouraged to exit the roadway or move to the shoulder if no one is hurt in a crash and drugs or alcohol aren’t involved, said Trooper Josh Lewis, a spokesman for the Colorado State Patrol.
“We’ll do our best if those in an accident can’t move out of the lane. And depending on what route we have to take to respond, [traffic] can extend our ETA in order to get to their location and everything handled,” Lewis said.
CDOT requires its contractor to have tow trucks available during construction so any idle vehicles can be removed as quickly as possible, Wilson said.
More law enforcement will be present along the corridor, too, during the lane closures, CDOT reports.
Tips for drivers navigating I-25 construction zones this summer:
• “Expect the unexpected,” Wilson advised. A traffic restriction or lane closure that wasn’t there yesterday may appear tomorrow.
• Watch for reduced speed limits. As signs warn, fines double in construction zones.
• Refrain from changing lanes unless you must.
• Be on the lookout for construction workers, and turn on headlights so they can see your vehicle.
• Don’t get distracted by phones and other devices while driving.
• Leave plenty of space between your vehicle and the one in front of you.
• Plan for delays. Text “I25GAP” to 21000 to receive traffic alerts.
• Call CDOT’s project hotline at 720-745-5434 or email email@example.com to make comments, ask questions or report concerns.
The Gazette’s Leslie James contributed to this story.