Driving You Crazy: Will I-270 across Commerce City ever be widened?

Does CDOT not like 270?
Posted at 8:42 AM, Jul 14, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-14 11:33:07-04

Michelle in Denver writes, “Do you know if I-270 will ever be widened? It seems as though all of our freeways get improvements, but 270 just chugs along being ignored, or so it seems. It’s two lanes and usually backed up unless it’s a weekend or at night. I also noticed the entrance ramp metering at Quebec & Vasquez are never on. Do the “powers” not like 270? That’s understandable, few of us do.”

No Michelle, it isn’t that CDOT doesn’t like I-270. It is just they don’t have a money tree with a million dollar bills falling off of it to widen I-270 right now. I, too, am not a fan of the congestion. Over 100,000 vehicles use I-270 every day and it is one of the first highways to bog down every morning. Oddly enough, I am a fan of looking at the refineries as I sit in traffic and I like watching the foam from the waste reclamation facility dissipate into the South Platte. But that’s a different story.

CDOT tells me that I-270 is currently deteriorating and is on their list of highways in need of replacement.

“CDOT is very aware of the congestion problems along the I-270 corridor," said Stacia Sellers, CDOT communications specialist. "Widening I-270 from I-76 to I-25 is on the list of 2035 DRCOG RTP Regionally Significant Roadway Capacity projects, but unfortunately, does not have any funding identified at this time.”

Although no actual traffic studies have been done, traffic projections show they will need to expand I-270 by at least one lane in each direction. And that additional lane they tell me will most likely be an express/toll lane just like we are seeing on all the other highways around Denver.

CDOT says the “preferred” option will not be selected until the required environmental process has been completed.

CDOT says the initial cost estimates for the removal and replacement of all the bridges on I-270 from I-76 to I-70, reconstruction of Mainline I-270, and adding either a general purpose or managed lane in each direction is estimated at approximately $280 million. I’ve heard the cost could be much higher. One person I talked to put the rebuild at about $28 million per lane mile. With two new lanes that are a little more than 6 miles long each, the cost would be sniffing $350 million.  

“In an effort to make some progress now, CDOT is conducting a $1 million Planning and Environmental Linkage study at the I-270/Vasquez Blvd and US85/60th Avenue location to be completed in late 2017,” Stacia said. "Seven million dollars of FY19 has been identified at this time for improvements with this advance project.”

Informally they tell me that if funding levels stays the same, the earliest any widening could happen would be long past my retirement, around 2035. They say, “As of now, if everything came in as part of our reasonable, if optimistic, estimates, then we would plan to do the work between now and 2040.”

CDOT has some additional information regarding the widening of I-270 on their 2040 Fiscally Constrained Regional Transportation Plan. You can read it if you need something to help you get to sleep here.

In the meantime, you have two years to ready for several years of heavier than normal congestion. Once CDOT tears up I-70 east of I-25 and rebuilds it out to Tower Road, many drivers are going to scramble for an easy alternate and think I 270 is their go to highway. Obviously, a bad choice.      

Denver7 traffic reporter Jayson Luber says he has been covering Denver-metro traffic since Ben-Hur was driving a chariot. (We believe the actual number is about 20 years.) He's obsessed with letting viewers know what's happening on their drive and the best way to avoid the problems that spring up. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.