Apr 19,2021Dana Laratta
For long-time visitors of the mountain towns of Central City and Black Hawk, one sure sign of the return to "life as usual" after all the disruption of the past year is the return of construction crews and road closures to US Highway 6 running up the Clear Creek Canyon!
A simple look back on our past articles here will demonstrate how often we've needed to communicate a closure of US 6. And for anyone driving the route to-and-from Golden and these mountain gambling towns right now... it's clear they do need a lot of work! Potholes and crevices in the concrete have become common. So much so a gambler might feel like they are testing their luck with the trip alone! It seems the 2017 project to both re-pave Clear Creek Canyon's own US highway and install cell-phone covergae (for certain providers) have left a bit of work for the future; the blacktop is once again in need of patching and repair, seemingly in the areas where cable was run to enable previously mentioned cellular service. At least, that's our theory!
Potholes All in a Line... Where Cellular Tower Cable Was Installed?
US 6 has been needing other work as well (besides what you can feel in your bones when driving it) and thus CDOT has started on this in April with work requiring some overnight closures of some portions of the highway. The first project they have begun will involve replacement and upgrading of all the tunnel lighting, using newer more energy-efficient LED lighting. This will be a welcome improvement to the experience as well; it is a creepy experience to plunge into a darkened patch of mountain tunnel when a segement of lights have burned out!
Currently this project upgrading tunnel lighting has started at the end of US 6 that is furthest from Golden, working on tunnels between the junction of US 6 and Colorado Highway 119 (which Clear Creek Canyon drivers would then use to proceed on to our towns). This phase of work has already begun and is scheduled to run through June 2021, presenting the following traffic slowdowns and closures:
Overnight full closures will be necessary to complete this work, which will begin overnight Monday, April 5 at 4 p.m.
The full closures will take place on Monday through Thursday nights from 4 p.m. to 4 a.m. and on Sunday nights from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. along US 6 between CO 119 and I-70/US 40 (highlighted in blue on the map below)
This overnight full closure schedule will remain in place through the month of June.
During this first phase, daytime lane closures are possible along the entire US 6 Clear Creek Canyon corridor Monday through Thursday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Project Map of US 6 Tunnel Improvement Zone - I-70 Adjacent First, But All of US 6 Still Affected
You can find more detail regarding this and the next series of US 6 closures on the CDOT website for the project. When you do, you will discover CDOT and other projects have scheduled a whole slate of work on US 6 that will present slowdowns and occasional closures to the highway throughout the year and well into 2022! The Peak to Plain Trails project will be closing the I-70 adjacent portion of US 6 for work on their trails project from March through December of 2021, presenting alternating single-lane closures, shoulder closures, and up to 10 minute traffic holds in the connecting corridor between CO 119 and I-70. The same project will also be working on the other entrance from Denver to US Highway 6: the gateway of the canyon off US 6 near CO 93/CO 58 in Golden. Both of these project should be completed (if everything goes to plan) in 2021, and you can find more about the Peak to Plains Trail project and the beautiful plans they have laid in place for that "Gateway to the Canyon" at the web site for the Peak to Plains Trail Project.
The Gateway Project will bring the Peak to Plains Trail Development to the Golden Entrance of US 6
The aforementioned pothole issue is planned to be addressed in a re-paving and re-surfacing project planned to start in June 2021. This work will present daytime single-lane closures of US 6 between the Golden entrance and the CO 119 junction, and is planned to run all the way through Spring 2022, with a brief pause for winter. In all, eleven miles of US 6 are planned to receive resurfacing and safety improvements in a significant project with a price tag of almost $20 million.
It Doesn't Look Like a Twenty Million Dollars Right Now!
Finally, even as some of this other work is still scheduled to continue, the tunnel lighting improvement project will return to work after a break (to alleviate summer highway closures) and resume their upgrade of the tunnel lighting in October 2021, with an expected completion date of March 2021. This will involve work on tunnels #1-3 as you can see in the map above, so a more direct set of work on the area of US 6 that leads from Golden up to the CO 119 junction. This work will also involve full overnight closures of US 6, probably similar to the hours posted for the tunnel upgrade work underway right now, although exact details of these closures have not yet been released.
In the face of all these announced plan and closures, CDOT had included the following Detour advice on the same web site linked above, with which we disagree:
Detour: All motorists needing to get to Black Hawk or Central City during the overnight full closures will need to access US 6 Clear Creek Canyon at the intersection of CO 93/CO 58 to connect with CO 119.
This advice may work for right now, for the first phase fo the tunnel lighting improvement project when the crews are primarily working on tunnels #5 and #6 in the section of US 6 between CO 119 and the I-70 exit. But as the work heats up, and the additonal project like the Peak to Plains Trails Gateway Project and the resurfacing project all start to combine and overlap, it suddenly becomes bad advice to continue to brave the unexpected and uneven territory of US Highway 6 coming up from Golden at the CO 93/CO 58 juncture to reach either Central City or Black Hawk!
We have a beautiful, convenient alternative to suggest: take I-70 to Exit 243 and take the wide and smooth Central City Parkway to reach either Central City or Black Hawk! The City of Central and its associated Business Improvement District have worked hard to build and maintain this vital access to these Colorado mountain gambling towns! Black Hawk and their associated Business Improvement District didn't build it for you, they just benefit from it when US 6 is once again closed for repairs! The Central City Parkway present two lanes in either direction for most of its run, offering breathtaking views of the Colorado mountains! High atop the world, cellular phone service seems to be available for most carriers along the Parkway, except for maybe a brief patch right in the middle there where you might be above the signal! Okay, that's probably exaggerating. :)
The Beautiful Open View along Your Drive on the Central City Parkway
If you follow CDOT's advice now, you'll inevitably face more challenges in 2021 down the road of US Highway 6 along Clear Creek Canyon. It's a beautiful drive and a great outdoor recreation area, but it's far less pretty stuck in a line of cars looking at construction equipment. Whereas if you shift your driving habits over to I-70 to Exit 243 to the Central City Parkway, you'll always know which road provides the most lanes and open options as you come up to visit either Central CIty or Black Hawk! It's Exit 243 no matter which direction from which you're approaching on I-70, so you can always remember it whether you're coming up from the city, or stopping by for a quick try of your luck after a mountain getaway!
The Only Route You Need to Remember!
Sure, lots of people can sometimes crowd I-70 and provide unpredictable challenges. But since CDOT has been kind enough to provide us a roadmap of all the predictable challenges along US 6 along the Clear Creek Canyon this year, don't gamble on a sure loser when it comes to choosing which route to take to visit us! Take the best bet with I-70 to Exit 243, and follow it up with another great bet, and spend your time on a visit to Denver's Best casino since 2012, Century Casino & Hotel in Central City!