CDOT rolls ahead with paving projects as traffic plummets; Aurora remains on schedule

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Not any more. Lean traffic on I-70 in Denver and Aurora, unlike this previously typical gridlocked day last year, means road crews can work longer and faster, getting ahead on big metro highway projects, CDOT officials say (AP File Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

AURORA | As odometers remain frozen in driveways across the metroplex, the state department of transportation is working to take advantage of vacant roads and make a dent in longstanding construction projects, officials told The Sentinel Friday.

The Colorado Department of Transportation is enacting rare daytime lane closures across the state in an effort to keep large-scale projects like the hulking central 70 overhaul on or ahead of schedule, according to CDOT spokeswoman Tamara Rollison.

“We have seen a decline in traffic volumes quite a bit,” Rollison said. “With some projects — not with all — but with some projects we are able to do daytime closures, and under normal circumstances we would not because it would bet too disruptive to traffic … we usually do most of our work at night in the metro area.”

Traffic volumes across the state shrunk by nearly 60 percent between the beginning and end of March, Gov. Jared Polis told reporters at a news conference late last month.

On a recent Sunday, traffic volumes at the Eisenhower Tunnel, which straddles the line between Clear Creek and Summit Counties, were down about 80 percent when compared to same date last year, KUSA recently reported. Those are traffic counts that haven’t been seen since the late 1970s, according to Rollison.

Closer to Aurora, the unoccupied roadways mean CDOT workers and contractors are paving sections of I-70 and enacting longer closures at the onramps near Steele Street and Brighton Boulevard, according Stacia Sellers, another CDOT spokeswoman.

CDOT as a whole is asking contractors to put together more aggressive work plans in areas with low traffic counts,” Sellers wrote in an email.

She said motorists may soon notice significant changes to the viaduct, which is expected to be largely overhauled by 2022.

“When folks start to hit the road again and adjust to their old routines, they’ll notice a smoother ride and a new, final configuration of I-70 between Quebec Street and Chambers Road,” Sellers wrote.

To the north of the city, Rollison said contractors are making significant headway on a pavement rehabilitation project on U.S. 36 between Federal Boulevard and Pecos Street. She said crews recently enacted a double-lane closure in both directions, which would be highly unusual during normal traffic conditions.

If construction workers are able to continue working while practicing social distancing, Rollison said the efforts could cut more than three months off the overall project timeline on the highway between Boulder and Denver.

Aurora’s Public Works Department is continuing crack and seal work across the city during the stay-at-home orders, though larger projects aren’t expected to be expedited as many cars remain on residential streets as denizens wait out the pandemic in their homes.

We are on schedule and have not seen an acceleration in schedule due to the high volume of cars in the residential neighborhoods,” City Spokeswoman Julie Patterson wrote in an email.

The city has also suspended street sweeping operations this spring. The cleaning services will resume once “the public health situation has improved,” according to Patterson.