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Interstate 70

Interstate 70 passes through several tunnels as it crosses the Rocky Mountains, including the No Name Tunnel on westbound Interstate 70 and U.S. 6 in Glenwood Canyon. Photo taken by Tim Kubat (2007).

Routing

Spanning the Centennial State, Interstate 70 is the 450-mile long freeway that bisects Colorado. Entering the state from Utah near Grand Junction, Interstate 70 follows the U.S. 6-50 corridor along the Colorado River. As it heads east out of Grand Junction, Interstate 70 travels through Glenwood Canyon, one of the last sections of Interstate 70 to be completed in the state of Colorado. The marvel of engineering a four-lane freeway through a tight canyon is awe inspiring to this day.

Interstate 70 then enters the Rocky Mountains, connecting to several major ski resorts along the way: Aspen, Beaver Creek, Vail, Copper Mountain, Breckenridge, Arapahoe, and Keystone. Many of these resorts are very close to the freeway, while others are a bit of a distance from the freeway. Aspen, for instance, requires a trip along Colorado 82. However, many of the other resorts, are located within close proximity of the freeway. One can ski Vail and look down on Interstate 70.

But Interstate 70 is not just for skiers. It is also for those who want to see the Rocky Mountains at their best. With the combination of national forest, 14,000-foot tall mountains, snow, highway tunnels, and spectacular views, Interstate 70 is easier to describe with pictures than with words.

Interstate 70 Colorado Highway Guides


History

Originally, Interstate 70 in Colorado was planned to end in Denver. This was due to the lack of interest in neighboring Utah to construct a connecting route along what was then U.S. 6-50. Officials from Colorado and Utah negotiated the concept of creating such a route, despite the enormous costs to construct the route through the mountains in both states. In October 1956, the federal government approved such a route, which would connect Interstate 25 with Interstate 15 near Cove Fort, Utah. Currently there are no plans to extend Interstate 70 any further west, although some have offered fanciful extensions of that route.

Between 1956 and 1992, Interstate 70 in Colorado was under construction. The very first segment of Interstate 70 was constructed in Denver, along the route of 46th Avenue in the northeastern part of the city. Construction of this section started in 1961 and opened on September 12, 1964. The first section to be completed west of the Continental Divide was Interstate 70 between Clifton and the Colorado 65 interchange in 1963. The final section to be completed and opened to traffic was in Glenwood Canyon; officials descended on the canyon to dedicate this freeway in October 1992.

While construction continued on Interstate 70, incomplete segments used the old road. In some cases, the future freeway was constructed as a Super Two, with only two lanes (one lane in each direction) with interchanges. Examples of this included the section between Agate and the West Limon Bypass (Super Two completed in 1963, four-lane freeway completed in 1968) and the section between Seibert and Bethune (Super Two completed in 1966, four-lane freeway completed in 1971).

Many superlative achievements occurred on Interstate 70 in Colorado. The freeway was an engineering marvel as it weaved through and around mountains, and it was perhaps the most famous for its Continental Divide tunnel. Originally planned as the Straight Creek Tunnel, the Eisenhower Tunnel is the common name for the two tunnels that burrow under Loveland Pass. The original tunnel was the Eisenhower Tunnel, which is now the westbound lanes of Interstate 70. Construction of this tunnel began in 1968; it was completed and opened to traffic on March 8, 1973. The second tunnel bore was the Edwin C. Johnson Tunnel. It was constructed between 1972 and 1980. Tunnels were constructed in several other locations along Interstate 70, including Beavertail (near De Beque), Glenwood Canyon, and Idaho Springs. A stream bed along a three-mile section of Tenmile Creek west of Frisco had to be channeled onto a new stream bed.

According to Colorado Department of Transportation 50th Anniversary of the Interstate Highway System web page, the completion of the Glenwood Canyon segment marked the final link in the mainline Interstate Highway System (excluding spur, bypass, and other three-digit Interstates). The Glenwood Canyon section of Interstate 70 contains plenty of recreation opportunities, including a bikepath for the entire length and four rest areas. The section of Interstate 70 over Vail Pass also features a bike path.

The following chart shows the dates on which each section of Interstate 70 was opened, from the Utah State Line to the Kansas State Line.

Description of Segment

Distance

Construction Completion Date

From Utah State Line east to Mack

11 miles

1973

From Mack east to Fruita

8 miles

1972

From Fruita east to 22 Road

6 miles

1969

From 22 Road east to Horizon Drive

5 miles

1967

From Horizon Drive east to Clifton

6 miles

1965

From Clifton east to Junction Colorado 65

12 miles

1963

From Junction Colorado 65 east to De Beque

13 miles

1989

From De Beque east to Parachute

13 miles

1984

From Parachute east to Rulison

6 miles

1983

From Rulison east to the West Rifle Interchange

6 miles

1980

From the West Rifle Interchange east to Silt

11 miles

1976

From Silt east to New Castle

8 miles

1973

From New Castle east to Chacra

4 miles

1971

From Chacra east to Glenwood Springs

7 miles

1971

From Glenwood Springs east to No Name

3 miles

1966

From No Name east to the East End of Glenwood Canyon

12 miles

1992

From East End of Glenwood Canyon to Gypsum

7.8 miles

1980

From Gypsum east to Eagle

8 miles

1979

From Eagle east to Wolcott

10 miles

1973

From Wolcott east to Avon

10 miles

1971

From Avon east to Dowd Junction (U.S. 24)

4 miles

1970

From Dowd Junction east to East Vail

6 miles

1968

From East Vail east to Wheeler Junction via Vail Pass

15 miles

1969

From Wheeler Junction east to Frisco via Tenmile Canyon , including Colorado 91 interchange

6 miles

1979

From Frisco to Silverthorne

5 miles

1972

From Silverthorne to the west portal of the Eisenhower-Johnson Memorial Tunnels

7 miles

1973

Eisenhower-Johnson Memorial Tunnels

1.7 miles

1973, 1980

From east portal of the Eisenhower-Johnson Memorial Tunnels to Silver Plume

10 miles

1972

From Silver Plume east to Exit 232, Junction U.S. 40 near Empire

6 miles

1968

From Exit 232, Junction U.S. 40 east to Idaho Springs (west entrance, Junction Business Loop I-70)

7 miles

1966

Idaho Springs Bypass, from west entrance to east entrance

2 miles

1961

From Idaho Springs (west entrance) east to Exit 244, Junction U.S. 6

3 miles

1961

From Exit 244, Junction U.S. 6 east to Beaver Brook

4 miles

1975

From Beaver Brook east to Junction Colorado 74, Evergreen Parkway/El Rancho

4 miles

1972

From Junction Colorado 74 east to Genesee Mountain Interchange

2 miles

1972

From Genesee Mountain Interchange east to Lookout Mountain Interchange

2.4 miles

1970

From Lookout Mountain Interchange to Junction Colorado 26 and Business Loop I-70 ( Mount Vernon Canyon )

2.8 miles

1970

From Junction Colorado 26 and Business Loop I-70 ( Mount Vernon Canyon ) east to Junction Business Loop I-70/ U.S. 40, West Colfax Avenue

2.9 miles

1969

From Junction Business Loop I-70/ U.S. 40, West Colfax Avenue east to Exit 266, Junction Colorado 72, Ward Road

4 miles

1970

From Exit 266, Junction Colorado 72, Ward Road east to Exit 267, Junction Colorado 391, Kipling Street

1.7 miles

1968

From Exit 267, Junction Colorado 391, Kipling Street east to Exit 269, Junction Colorado 121, Wadsworth Boulevard

2 miles

1968

From Exit 269, Junction Colorado 121, Wadsworth Boulevard east to Exit 271, Junction Colorado 95, Sheridan Boulevard

2 miles

1967

From Exit 271, Junction Colorado 95, Sheridan Boulevard east to Exit 272, Junction U.S. 287, Federal Boulevard

1 mile

July 9, 1966

From Exit 272, Junction U.S. 287, Federal Boulevard east to Exit 274, Junction Interstate 25/U.S. 6-85-87

2 miles

December 10, 1965

From Exit 274, Junction Interstate 25/U.S. 6-85-87 east to Exit 276, Junction Colorado 2 ( Colorado Boulevard )

2.6 miles

September 12, 1964

From Exit 276, Junction Colorado 2 ( Colorado Boulevard ) east to Exit 281, Peoria Street

5 miles

1965

From Exit 281, Peoria Street east to Exit 288, Junction Business Loop I-70 and U.S. 40-287, East Colfax Avenue

7 miles

1966

From Exit 288, Junction Business Loop I-70 and U.S. 40-287, East Colfax Avenue east to Watkins

7 miles

1977

From Watkins to Bennett

9 miles

1963

From Bennett east to Byers

12 miles

1964

From Byers east to Deer Trail

12 miles

1967

From Deer Trail east to Agate

12 miles

1968

From Agate east to West Limon Bypass

19 miles

1963, 1968

West Limon Bypass

3.5 miles

1975

East Limon Bypass

3.8 miles

1975

From East Limon Bypass east to a point west of Genoa

4.2 miles

1975

From a point west of Genoa to a point east of Genoa

4 miles

1975

From a point east of Genoa east to Flagler

24 miles

1975

From Flagler east to Seibert

10 miles

1974

From Seibert east to Bethune

25 miles

1966, 1971

From Bethune to Burlington

8 miles

1967

From Burlington to Kansas State Line

14 miles

1969


Other Interstate 70 Pictures
Signage for the Park and Ride at the Interstate 70 Genesee Park exit along U.S. 40 (frontage road). It's hard to believe that mass transit has found its way this far up the mountain. Genesee Park is not a heavily populated area, but it is good that commuting and transit services are available. Photo taken 02/02/02.
Interstate 70 is the Pearl Harbor Memorial Highway in Colorado, as evidenced by this sign, located in a small rest area on the south side of the Genesee Park interchange. The shield even has "Colorado" in it, which was a rarity at the time this photo was taken, but today (2005) is much more commonly found on all of Colorado's Interstates. Photo taken 02/02/02.

Page Updated March 14, 2006.