North I-25 Express Lanes Project: What you’ll see in 2021

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Interstate 25 travelers might wonder if the North I-25 Express Lanes Project is ever going to end.

There is good news and bad news, depending on how full you see the glass.

The $750 million project stretching 19 miles from Colorado Highway 56 near Berthoud to Colorado Highway 14 in Fort Collins is nearly half done. The project kicked off in September 2018 and is expected to finish in 2023.

Here is a look at what you will see in 2021:

Prospect Road interchange

Crews work on construction of the north Prospect Road bridge over Interstate 25 on Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020.

Completion of the Prospect Bridge — including widening and final pavement between the frontage roads east and west of I-25 and final traffic alignment, except for the ramp tie-ins to I-25 — is expected in the spring.

Crews are currently putting the finishing touches on the north section of the 54-year-old bridge. The south section of the bridge is done. When completed, the interchange will include two through-lanes and center turn lanes in each direction, as well as bike and pedestrian lanes. The on- and off-ramps will be moved farther from the interstate and expand turn lanes in each direction.

The interchange is about a mile west of Poudre School District’s new middle and high school and 3,500-seat stadium set to open in fall 2022.

The cost of the interchange is $31 million, with the city of Fort Collins, town of Timnath and developers funding $19 million of the interchange cost and Colorado Department of Transportation is funding $12 million.

Poudre River bridge

A construction worker moves dirt on the east side of Interstate 25 near the Colorado State Patrol office near the Poudre River bridge in Fort Collins, Colo. on Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020.

Work began in November to temporarily remove the median cable tension barrier around Harmony Road, cut down large trees, create the embankment on the east side of I-25 near the Colorado State Patrol office and start the new bridge foundation.

Crews will continue that work to elevate I-25 between Harmony Road on the south and the railroad track bridge to the north. Raising that low-lying stretch of I-25 would allow a 100-year flood on the Poudre River to pass under the bridge.

This work also will allow for the long-awaited connection of the Poudre Trail under the interstate, which is 40 years in the making.

Completion of this part of the project is expected in 2023.

Express lanes project: 2020 progress

U.S. Highway 34 interchange

A construction worker moves dirt and snow on the east side of Interstate 25 near the Colorado State Patrol office near the Poudre River bridge in Fort Collins, Colo. on Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020.

Work on the massive renovation of the project’s busiest interchange will continue to focus on the on- and off-ramps and bridge that is being expanded to accommodate six total lanes. Lanes on the new north phase of the bridge are expected to open in the spring or summer.

The interchange isn’t expected to be completed until 2023.

Kechter Road overpass

Construction on this two-lane bridge over I-25 just south of Harmony Road will begin mid-summer and will include closure of the road for approximately six months while the new overpass is being built.

Replacing the existing bridge with a wider bridge will also provide greater clearance over I-25. There also will be a three-legged roundabout on the west side where the west frontage road ties into Kechter Road, replacing a stop sign on the frontage road.

Renovation of the Kechter Road Bridge (Buchanan Liberty Bridge) was not in the original plans for the project but was added when additional funding became available.

Ports of entry

The two state ports of entry, one each on northbound and southbound I-25 just south of Prospect Road, will be moved approximately a half-mile south of their current locations to allow for better traffic flow. The project is expected to take place in the spring.

Centerra mobility hub

Work will continue on the unique Bustang slip in the middle of I-25 near Kendall Parkway, but a timeline on when the project will be finished and buses begin running has not yet been set.

Big Thompson River Bridge

Crews will continue work to raise the Big Thompson River Bridge near Loveland by 6 feet to prevent a 100-year-flood from impacting the interstate. The northbound bridges could be open to traffic in late January or early February. When that happens, the remaining work on the new southbound bridge will begin and is expected to be completed by spring.

The nearby Great Western Railway bridge is expected to be fully completed by early summer 2021.

And work to reconstruct will start or continue on bridges at Larimer County roads 14, 16, 46 and 50 and Colorado Highway 60.

Colorado Highway 56 interchange

The project includes work to eliminate the curve on I-25 and flip the interchange so that I-25 runs over Colorado 56 (Berthoud exit).

Widening or reconstructing of walls, bridges and utility work will continue on all bridges between Colorado 56 and Larimer County Road 16.

A timetable for completion of this work has not been set.

A look back: See photos that reflect 2020

Reporter Miles Blumhardt looks for stories that impact your life. Be it news, outdoors, sports — you name it, he wants to report it. Have a story idea? Contact him at milesblumhardt@coloradoan.com or on Twitter @MilesBlumhardt. Support his work and that of other Coloradoan journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.