I-70 in the Denver metro area required highway expansion to continue to serve the connected communities and enhance commuter daily life.
Highway systems have made expansion possible, provided a convenient means to travel for career opportunities, and allowed businesses to expand and grow nationwide. With the extension of economic opportunity these travel arteries of connection result in extended development—increasing the number of people using this means of transportation. In Arapahoe County in Colorado, a road widening project was needed along E-470 from Quincy Ave to I-70. The project proactively addressed increased traffic demands in this rapidly growing part of town to keep people moving around the Denver-metro area quickly and reliably for many years to come.
The project stretched along eight miles of E-470, adding a third travel lane, expanding bridge structures, building new on-off ramps at the Quincy Avenue interchange, upgrading signals, improving drainage, and paving a new asphalt surface to provide a smoother ride. In addition, the existing toll plaza was reconfigured to accommodate the additional travel lane and widened shoulders.
“Continuing to make improvements that directly benefit our partner jurisdictions to proactively address increased traffic demands and enhance safety for the traveling public has been, and remains, a primary goal.” – Tim Stewart, Executive Director, E-470
The project also included a six-mile expansion to the High Plains Trail that runs along the west side of the highway and added a 10-foot-wide multi-use path for people on bikes and on foot, which now serves as a north-south connection for residents in Arapahoe and neighboring counties. Safety was a top priority for the expansion of the trail. Features include three grade-separated crossings, along with one at-grade crossing at Quincy Ave. Environmental and floodplain considerations were also incorporated into the final selection of the trail alignment.
“Continuing to make improvements that directly benefit our partner jurisdictions to proactively address increased traffic demands and enhance safety for the traveling public has been, and remains, a primary goal,” said E-470 Executive Director Tim Stewart. “Through careful management of our finances and close collaboration with our partners, we have been able to deliver this crucial project in the midst of a global pandemic within budget and without raising tolls.”
Construction began in the summer of 2019 and wrapped-up in February 2021. “The collaboration between team members and various stakeholders to deliver a quality project on time and within budget,” said Heather Burke, Public Information Officer, E-470 Public Highway Authority. “This speaks volumes about the professionalism of the project team.” The $99 million project was funded entirely by E-470, with no local, state or federal funds, and without increasing toll rates. The construction will allow for the potential of adding a fourth travel lane at a later time.
The E-470 Public Highway Authority served as the project owner and had close collaboration with design consultant FHU, the project oversight team Benesch, and the construction manager and general contractor SEMA-Kraemer Joint Venture. In addition, the Authority also engaged with project stakeholders including the City of Aurora, Arapahoe County, Arapahoe Parks & Recreation District, SEMSWA and the UPRR.
“The project team worked closely with stakeholders to process several agreements to ensure construction stayed on schedule,” stated burke. “Multiple permits were issued for construction, which helped lessen impacts to a railroad bridge, our toll booth building, utility connections, wells, solar panels, floodplain development, wetlands, and traffic on Interstate 70.”
According to Burke, as part of paving operations for this project, the Authority utilized warm mix asphalt, which reduces carbon emissions due to lower temperatures involved during production. “However, we were only able to use a small portion of this type of asphalt due to the colder fall temperatures we experienced when this portion of work was underway,” Burke mentioned. In addition, the new pavement surface consisted of up to 20 percent of recycled asphalt to reduce landfill quantities.
With more than more than 7,200 cubic yards of structural concrete poured, 180,000 tons of asphalt placed and 15 miles of new or reset wildlife fencing installed, the additional travel lane and trail extension have been well received and are utilized daily. Burke noted the Express Toll commuters and residents especially enjoy the enhancements.
As for the future expansion of the highway, construction on the next phase of road widening is anticipated to begin in 2022 and will extend from I-70 to 104th Avenue, expanding this 11-mile stretch to six travel lanes and extending the multi-use trail for people on bikes and on foot. “We’re also excited to begin building a new Central Maintenance Facility, which will help crews more effectively maintain E-470 and service customers year-round in this part of town [Aurora, Colorado],” said Burke. The facility will provide additional storage for deicing material as well as maintenance and wash bays for the snowplows.
E-470 Authority Board Chair and Adams County Commissioner Chaz Tedesco said, “Completion of this major project once again shows the Authority’s commitment to making ongoing investments that maintain E-470’s position as the premier tollway. It is no coincidence that just last year we won a Toll Excellence Award from the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association (IBTTA) and Tim Stewart was named an IBTTA Honorary Member.”