DOUGLAS COUNTY, Colo. (KRDO) -- The Interstate 25 Gap project between Colorado Springs and the Denver metroplex will be completed ahead of schedule and under budget, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis revealed Monday, and travelers will be able to take advantage of it within a few weeks.
By mid-December, traffic will be able to access all lanes in their final alignment, according to Polis; a third "express lane" in each direction -- charging an undetermined toll -- was added to the project.
Polis said that the express lanes will be free through the fall of 2022, until a study helps the Colorado Department of Transportation determine the amount of the toll.
"We are thrilled to be delivering something very important to Colorado families this holiday season," he said. "The gift of time and the gift of safety. Te completion of this vital project will help them get where they need to go."
Polis was joined by Colorado's Democratic Senators Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper, and Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers, at a maintenance area along the interstate just south of Larkspur, to make the announcement.
"We finished under budget because the contractors and the crews dod a great job of working together and communicating with each other," Hickenlooper said. "It allowed them to get a lot done at the same time instead of doing one thing at a time. And we were the only state that didn't stop highway construction during the pandemic. That will allow us to leapfrog other states."
Suthers was a driving force behind the project, challenging CDOT during his 2016 State of the City address to widen the narrow, congested 18-mile freeway between Monument and Castle Rock.
"I am absolutely delighted to be here, today" he said, "because in 2016 I did not think we would be here today."
The Gap project has been under construction for three years, expanding with a third lane in both directions and adding safety improvements throughout the highway; the project was originally slated for completion in November 2022.
In addition to widening the freeway, the project installed four wildlife crossings to reduce vehicle/animal collisions, and replaced four bridges to fit over the wider pavement.
A key safety facet is the widening of shoulders along the Gap, making it easier for drivers to pull over when necessary, and offering greater protection for emergency personnel responding to accidents.
"The loss of Trooper Jaimie Jursevics and Trooper Cody Conahue, it was five and six years ago this month that those troopers lost their lives (while responding to crashes) on this stretch of highway. said Col. Matthew Packard, chief of the Colorado State Patrol.
The original project cost was $350 million but is now at around $420 million; CDOT said that additional funding was needed to cover the construction of the County Line Road bridge, the southbound I-25 Monument Hill truck climbing lane, the southbound I-25 truck chain-up station, and to address the issue of unsuitable soil discovered after the start of construction.
Contributions from Douglas and El Paso counties and the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority helped finance the project, along with a federal grant.
Finishing work on the Gap will continue into next year.