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HIstoric agreement ends I-70 stalemate

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By The Staff

In a historic agreement that ends a decade-long stalemate between CDOT and the mountain corridor, members of the I-70 collaborative effort agreed to partial widening through Clear Creek while allowing for a transit option.

The general agreement that will be put to paper in June and submitted to the Federal Highway Administration for approval designates highway improvements from Floyd Hill to the Twin Tunnels, Empire Junction and west of Silver Plume to the Eisenhower Tunnel.

"It's not defeat," said County Commissioner Kevin O'Malley, who represented Clear Creek in the collaborative effort. "It's an historic agreement. We are at a point where people realized that if we do this together, we can do it. If we have one side dictating to other, it will be a mess."

The plan gives rail advocates until 2025 to make an elevated guideway system a reality. If an alternative transit mode does not meet the further congestion issues in the corridor, then the agreement allows CDOT to proceed with widening through Idaho Springs and Georgetown.

"Nothing will happen in our communities for at least 17 years," O'Malley said.

The collaborative effort has been meeting since October and includes representatives from CDOT, the trucking industry, the ski industry and the mountain communities. In addition to O'Malley, participants from Clear Creek included Harry Dale, representing Rocky Mountain Rail Authority, Cindy Neely, representing cultural and historic interests, and Mary Jane Loevlie, representing Idaho Springs.

"We believe these improvements, along with a transit system, will make further widening unnecessary," O'Malley said. He acknowledged the road is long and a lot of work must be done to ensure mass transit becomes a reality.

"May we end up being the little yapping dogs at the ankles of the people who need to make this happen?" O'Malley asked. "Probably."