Why Long-Lasting, Trusted Relationships Will Bring Success to CDOT on I-70

September 9, 2022

Clear Creek County, Colorado – If there is one golden rule that Ulteig brings to every project, it is that collaboration is an asset, not an obstacle.

This commitment to collaboration, along with years of proven expertise in transportation, led the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) to select Ulteig as a design engineering consultant on the renovation of a 6.2-mile stretch of westbound Interstate 70 (I-70).

The renovation will begin at the Bakerville interchange and will lead up to the region’s world-famous Eisenhower-Johnson Memorial Tunnel, where Ulteig was also recently selected in May 2022 to lead the design of a significant construction renovation of the tunnel.

The Bakerville project represents a continuation of the firm’s ongoing relationship with CDOT. The longevity of this relationship demonstrates the firm’s reliability as a collaborative partner and capacity to draw upon its literacy of various Department of Transportation systems and operations to optimize a project’s success.

“This section of I-70 is a critical mountain corridor between Denver and Colorado’s ski country. It has been a place of traffic backups and delays for many years,” said Bob Smith, PE, Manager of Construction Management at Ulteig. “With the Bakerville project, we have an opportunity to do what we love to do, which is to use our expertise and capacity for collaboration to fix problems. We are thrilled to have been chosen for it.”

“The transportation team at Ulteig is very familiar with the corridor, the terrain, CDOT, and with the project’s stakeholders,” added Smith. “Andi Schmid, Ulteig’s Director of Civil Engineering, and I both worked on the corridor back when we worked at CDOT. Several of the other team members at Ulteig also worked on the I-70 peak period shoulder lane project prior to this one.”

The project consists of two parts – an environmental analysis per the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and creating the design of an auxiliary lane along the 6.2 mile corridor.

Ulteig’s primary role on the project is to lead a consultant team through NEPA and design of the I-70 Auxiliary Lane as a partner to CDOT.  Subconsultant, Peak Consulting, will engage stakeholders and various interested groups along the project corridor and integrate their input into the project throughout the NEPA process. Ulteig staff will provide engineering expertise that will feed into the NEPA analysis and will complete the design to prepare the project for construction. Project stakeholders include Clear Creek County, the United States Forest Service, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Loveland Ski Area and more.

Building Trust

Bob Smith, PE, Andi Schmid, PE and Carrie DeJiacomo, PE, Principal Engineer at Ulteig, as well as other Ulteig team members, all have deep knowledge of CDOT’s processes and procedures. Collectively, those three have 50+ years of CDOT experience.

“Because we have worked together as colleagues in the past, there’s a level of trust between us,” said Schmid. “In every department, there are particular internal steps that are hard to gain an understanding of unless you’ve worked at or with CDOT before, which the majority of us have. Having that knowledge of internal processes is an incredible asset for this project and future projects.”

Ulteig is officially under contract with CDOT for the Bakerville to Eisenhower-Johnson Memorial Tunnel Climbing Lane Project as of June 2022. The design is anticipated to be completed by the end of 2023, and construction is anticipated to begin as early as 2024. As of June 2022, $3 million in funding has been identified for preconstruction efforts, which includes funding from Senate Bill 267 (SB 267) and from the National Highway Freight Program (NHFP).

Reducing Congestion and Increasing Safety

The primary goal of the planning and design effort is to reduce congestion along this 6.2-mile stretch of I-70. Ulteig will assist in accomplishing this goal by implementing one continuous westbound climbing/auxiliary lane for trucks and implementing safety improvements. Ulteig and CDOT will work closely with the Colorado Motor Carriers Association (CMCA) to optimize the benefits that heavy-duty vehicles reap from this project’s completion.

By improving mobility, this project will:

  • Allow large, slower moving, heavy-duty trucks (18-wheelers) and other vehicles to move to the auxiliary lane, enhancing safety for drivers by decreasing the potential for rear-end accidents
  • Improve emergency response time
  • Allow for seamless vehicular mobility along the corridor
  • Bolster access to recreation in the region’s mountain range
  • Enhance chain-up stations
  • Improve wildlife movement
  • Improve interchange access

“Many people living on the Front Range don’t get to enjoy skiing like they used to because they don’t want to drive three hours in traffic to get there,” said Schmid. “Any improvement in traffic flow on I-70 is going to encourage people to do what they love to do in the mountains.”

Mountainous Terrain Presents Unique Challenges

Though adding in a third lane westbound may sound simple on the surface, this project has more complexity than meets the eye. Environmental constraints, maintaining a consistent traffic flow throughout construction and operating on a unique traffic pattern due to tourism in the area will all pose challenges for the engineering team.

“This corridor has a different traffic pattern,” said Smith. “There is heavy tourist traffic going westbound on I-70 on Friday nights and Saturday mornings, and heavy eastbound traffic on Sunday evenings coming back from the mountains.”

In addition to these constraints, the team also must deal with:

  • A significant grade (6%)
  • Falling rocks
  • Intense snowfall and icy road conditions
  • Wildlife concerns due to the presence of mountain lions, lynx, bobcats, coyotes, foxes, snowshoe hares and crows, among other animals, in the project corridor zone

To preserve the region’s natural beauty, the protection of wildlife will be evaluated.  Mitigation measures will be considered in separating wildlife from interstate traffic, for the protection of both the public and the animals that live in the corridor. These changes, and more, will ensure the preservation of wildlife at the site.

Looking Forward

While others might shy away from the challenges presented, the team at Ulteig is excited to begin another thrilling project on Colorado’s beautiful I-70.

“This project will be incredibly rewarding because it offers a lot of collaboration and allows us to draw upon the longevity of our relationships with CDOT,” added DeJiacomo. “We are looking forward to delivering this critical corridor for CDOT and the other stakeholders.”

Ulteig: Drawing on Relationships to Strengthen Communities

To learn more about how Ulteig modernizes infrastructure for the transportation industry, visit Ulteig’s Transportation page.

  • Environmental Planning & Services, Transportation Planning & Design

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