Dowd Junction in state's sights

Photo by Preston Utley/Vail Daily
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Dowd Junction is part of a new plan for the I-70 corridor.
Preston Utley/Vail Daily

Allen Best
May 16, 2005

Colorado's state government may be pinched for cash, but it's not broke. That said, there's a chance that two projects on the far sides of Vail may get funded in the near term.

One proposal, with a cost of $8 million, would result in construction of climbing lanes for a three-mile segment of Interstate 70 on the west side of the pass. The segment is between mileposts 184 and 187, which is also known as "the narrows."

Traffic can slow significantly in that steep section, particularly when trucks or other slower-moving vehicles try to pass other vehicles that are even slower.

Another project is through Dowd Canyon. The Colorado Department of Transportation is proposing to spend $23 million to smooth the alignment and make the curves less sharp.

In the longer term, if the state transportation fund grows, highway engineers are looking at possibly boring tunnels through Dowd Butte, at a cost of more than $300 million. An alternative plan calls for $240 million to greatly improve the existing alignment, allowing speeds of 65 mph. The current speed limit, though widely ignored, is 55 mph.

Some of the heaviest traffic on the Western Slope is found on I-70 through Dowd Junction. While traffic rarely bottlenecks there, it has a high accident rate.

The highway is also vulnerable to mudslides form Meadow Mountain, which is one reason why the state has looked at tunneling through Dowd Butte.

Vail, Colorado