I-70 in Central Denver will soon have express lanes in an attempt to manage congestion

And they’ll be open to everyone, at least for a bit.

SUVs sit in I-70 traffic through north Denver. Sept. 24, 2021.

SUVs sit in I-70 traffic through north Denver. Sept. 24, 2021.

Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
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Colorado transportation officials will begin testing new express lanes along a stretch of Interstate 70 in Denver on Tuesday. Tolls along the route will be waived during the test, and the group behind the work is encouraging drivers to take advantage of free access so it can identify problems.

The express lanes are being built through the Central 70 Project, a public-private partnership between the Colorado Department of Transportation, the Colorado Transportation Investment Office, the Bridge and Tunnel Enterprise, and Kiewit Meridiam Partners.

In addition to adding 10 miles of express lanes through central Denver, the collaborative will remove a 57-year-old viaduct between Brighton and Colorado boulevards and build a four-acre park over a lowered section of the freeway.

The project will cost about $1.2 billion and is expected to finish by the end of this year.

Just under 7 miles of the westbound express lane will be open for testing Tuesday between Interstate 225 and Colorado Boulevard. The eastbound lane will open for testing in mid-June. Both will be free to use for the remainder of the year.

Officials said the project will help manage congestion on a particularly busy stretch of highway.

“CDOT’s Central 70 Express Lanes will improve safety and trip time reliability on one of the Denver metro area’s busiest corridors,” CDOT’s Director of the Colorado Transportation Investment Office Nicholas Farber said in a statement.

Starting in 2023, drivers will need to pay tolls to use the express lanes. Motorcycles and cars with three or more passengers can drive for free.

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