Traffic at the intersection of Colo. 52 and Colo. 119 in Boulder County on Dec. 2, 2019. CDOT has allocated $30 million for improvements to Colo. 119 between Longmont and Boulder.

The Colorado Department of Transportation has long recognized the need to update Colo. 119 in wake of Boulder County’s ever-increasing population. Now, after the state Legislature voted in 2018 to allocate hundreds of millions of dollars for transportation projects, it finally has the money to begin the process.

“We’re seeing major backups at the intersection of Highways 119 and 52, so we have to figure out what we can do with that intersection to improve flow of traffic,” said Jared Fiel, spokesman for CDOT. “It couldn’t be more of a priority and this puts the money on the table so that we can get down to brass tacks and start working out a plan with our partners.”

While the $30 million CDOT allocated for improvements to the intersection at Colo. 119 and Colo. 52 is far short of the $250 million the Regional Transportation District estimated it would cost to complete its multi-modal corridor vision for Colo. 119 — which includes commuter bike lanes, express lanes for buses, high occupancy vehicles and those who pay a toll, as well as new and improved Park-n-Ride facilities — it’s a crucial step forward.

“With transportation funding, you need money in order to get money,” said Suzanne Jones, who served as Boulder mayor from 2015-2019 and represented Boulder on the U.S. 36 Mayors and Commissioners Coalition.  “So this is important seed money that can be leveraged to get additional federal and state funds to move forward with managed lanes and the regional bike lane project.”

As part of the initial phase of the project, the intersection at Colo. 119 and Colo. 52 will be redesigned and CDOT will install adaptive traffic lights, which adjust the timing of green light cycles to match traffic conditions, along Colo. 119 from U.S. 287 to 47th Street.

“They put adaptive signals in Greeley along U.S. Routes 34 and 85 and it significantly cut down on travel times as well as reduced the wait times at stoplights, which has an environmental benefit by reducing idling times,” Fiel said.

The Colorado Department of Transportation is still working with Longmont, Boulder and Boulder County to determine new designs for the intersection and while Fiel said there is no timeline for when construction will begin, he did say “the clock is ticking,” as the $30 million in funding will not remain earmarked forever.

“Everything’s on the table, I’ve heard everything from a interchange to an overpass, to big on- and off-ramps,” said Andrew Barth, spokesman for the Boulder County Transportation Department. “We’re just happy to be apart of the planning process and making sure our needs our met because it’s a crucial spot, especially as we see more and more people coming in from Larimer and Weld counties.”

Once the entire multi-modal corridor is completed, CDOT estimates the improvements could reduce travel times by 26 to 29 minutes.

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