Glenwood Canyon commutes could gain some speed later this year when the state will raise the speed limit on Interstate 70.
“We expect to see those changes in the speed limits, in accordance with weather conditions and things like that, by the end of this year,” said Colorado Department of Transportation spokesperson Stacia Sellers.
Thanks to a variable speed limit system that CDOT crews are installing, the speed limit will increase from 50 to 60 miles per hour for most parts of the 14-mile canyon in good weather.
Speed limits will also drop to as low as needed when the road conditions worsen or construction or emergency closures occur.
The new system is the first of its kind in Colorado, Sellers said. Along with more than a dozen new signs, CDOT is also installing three weather-monitoring stations and nine closed-circuit cameras.
The technology is partially automated and partially manned, according to a fact sheet on the project.
The project started in late September 2018, took a break during the winter and resumed in March.
The work team expects to have everything in place by November.
“They’re installing the signs now. The biggest undertaking is the fiber optic installation,” Sellers said.
“They anticipate having everything installed by early November, and then have to start a 90-day testing period to make sure everything is reading correctly, and that the signs are adjusting to weather and doing everything they’re supposed to be doing.”
The speed limit increase has been a long time coming, but Glenwood Springs Fire Chief Gary Tillotson said he was unaware of it.
Even with the speed limit at 50, people slide out on the curves in the winter months, Tillotson said.
“From my perspective, most people are driving in excess of the current posted speed limit,” Tillotson said.
After receiving complaints about the speed through the canyon, Garfield County Commissioner Mike Samson said he tried to drive the speed limit when he went through I-70 last week.
“I can honestly say, everybody passed me,” Samson said during the commissioners meeting Monday.
“I’ve had quite a few people comment about the speed limit in Glenwood Canyon. They’re not happy it’s so slow,” he added.
Since no one appears to be driving the speed limit now, Samson said he was glad CDOT is increasing it.
“I’m not saying we should have exorbitant speed limits, but I do think speed limit in parts of Glenwood Canyon are off the mark,” Samson said.