Interstate 76 (Western)

Routing

Originally signed as Interstate 80S, the Western Interstate 76 links Denver, Colorado, with Interstate 80 in southwest Nebraska, facilitating traffic between Denver, Omaha and points east.

Parallel U.S. Routes

The western Interstate 76 emerges from Denver paired with U.S. 6, and the two routes remained combined until the reaching the vicinity of Fort Morgan. Northeast of Sterling, where U.S. 6 turns due east, U.S. 138 acts as the parallel route to Interstate 76 until its terminus at Big Springs, Nebraska.

High Priority Corridor

Interstate 76 from Denver to Fort Morgan/Brush is part of High Priority Corridor 14: Heartland Expressway.

History

The 3.15 mile section of I-80S in Nebraska was completed in 1969.1 Interstate 80S was renumbered to Interstate 76 on January 1, 1976.2 AASHTO previously approved the redesignation on June 25, 1974, though the request referenced U.S. 6 & 50 in Grand Junction as the western extent of the renumbering. The portion west of Denver was not approved.

Construction on Interstate 76 in Colorado commenced in 1958, with a variety of sections opened in 1966 from U.S. 85 to Crook in northeast Logan County. The westernmost segment of I-76 between Interstates 25 and 70 was the last to be completed. This stretch was built in conjunction with the reconstruction of the Mousetrap Interchange (Interstates 25/70) from November 5, 1987 to September 15, 1993. Upgrades to Interstate standards along the Barr Lake expressway (U.S. 6 from Sable Boulevard to Hudson), were completed in 1994.3

Highway Guides

Western Terminus - Interstate 70 - Wheat Ridge, Colorado
Perspective from Interstate 76 west
Colorado 121/Wadsworth Avenue (Exit 1A) is the last exit on Westbound Interstate 76 prior to its junction with Interstate 70. Wadsworth Avenue receives an off-ramp from Interstate 70 east via Exit 269A as well. The view at the actual end of Interstate 76 ahead is pretty non-descript, as you'll see below. Photo taken by Dale Sanderson (04/01).
This is the location where three lanes of westbound Interstate 76 (on the right) merge with three lanes of westbound Interstate 70. The overpass in the background is from southbound Wadsworth to eastbound Interstate 70. Traffic utilizing that ramp also has the option to access eastbound Interstate 76. Photo taken by Dale Sanderson (04/01).
An END Interstate 76 and WEST Interstate 70 shield assembly was added at the merge point in 2008. Photo taken by Matt Salek (04/26/08).
Perspective from Interstate 70 east
Within the city limits of Wheat Ridge, Interstate 70 motorists see the first mentioning of Interstate 76 east on this centerline posted upcoming exits sign. The next two interchanges (Exits 267 and 269A) serve Colorado 391 and 121 respectively. Photo taken by Bruce Telfeyan (07/02).
Interstate 70 eastbound approaching Exit 269A/Wadsworth Road. Exit 269B guide signage comes into view, 1.50 miles west of the terminus interchange. Featured on the left-hand panel is an Interstate 25 trailblazer and the north Colorado control city of Fort Collins. Interstate 76 intersects Interstate 25 at Exit 5. Photo taken by Bruce Telfeyan (07/02).
Another upcoming exits sign on Interstate 70 east. The close proximity of Exits 269A and B sees sees Interstate 76 depart from the left-hand side. Exit 270 for Harian Street represents the northwest extend of the Denver city limits. Photo taken by Bruce Telfeyan (07/02).
Nearing the split of Interstate 76 from Interstate 70 east. Three through lanes are allocated for Interstate 70 as the Exit 267 complex includes three exit-only lanes. Photo taken by Bruce Telfeyan (07/02).
Traffic to Colorado 121/Wadsworth Boulevard departs for the cities of Arvada and Wheat Ridge. Interstate 76 departs in 0.25 miles at the crest of the upcoming hill. Photo taken by Bruce Telfeyan (07/02).
A quieter stretch of freeway in this photograph of Interstate 70 east at the Colorado 121/Wadsworth Boulevard off-ramp. Photo taken 02/02.
A second view of the Exit 267N guide sign for Interstate 76 east. The upcoming exits sign in the background comes into focus, revealing the mileage to the Interstate 76 split. Photo taken by Andy Bagley (07/00).
Two lanes of Interstate 76 begin as Interstate 70 nears the Denver city line. Interstate 76 nips the northwest corner of the Mile High city while otherwise bypassing the city to the north. The first interchange encountered is Exit 1/Colorado 95 - Sheridan Road. Photo taken by Bruce Telfeyan (07/02).
View of the Interstate 70-76 split as seen from the right-hand shoulder. Interstate 70 turns briefly to the southeast before flattening out in north Denver. Exit 270 for Harlan Street is 0.75 miles ahead. Photo taken by Dale Sanderson (4/01).
Wintertime perspective of the Interstate 76 eastbound beginning. Downtown Denver is eight miles to the southeast. The Interstate 76 control city of Fort Morgan is 80 miles to the northeast. Photo taken 02/02.
Historic Western Terminus - Interstate 25 - Commerce City, Colorado
Perspective from Interstate 76 west
One quarter mile from the original terminus of Interstate 76 westbound. This upcoming exits sign is posted just past the junction with Interstate 270. Traffic interests to Interstate 25 north must use the extended westbound mainline of Interstate 270 to access the freeway in that direction. Photo taken 02/02.
Interstate 76 assumes the Interstate 70 westbound control city of Grand Junction. Exit 5A departs for downtown Denver via Intestate 25. The final five miles of Interstate 76 came to pass much later than the original alignment through the Commerce City community. Photo taken 02/02.
A second view of the Exit 5A sign bridge of Interstate 76 west. Prior to the late 1980s/early 1990s, all traffic was required to exit onto Interstate 25. Photo taken by Dale Sanderson (04/01).
Gore point of Exit 5A on Interstate 76 west. Interstate 25 originally carried Interstate 76 westbound motorists to Interstate 70. The two junctions are only two miles apart. Otherwise Interstate 76 sees another three mainline interchanges for Arvada, northwest Denver, and Westminster, before concluding at Interstate 70. Photo taken 02/02.
Perspective from Interstate 25 south
Original button copy signs on Interstate 25 southbound, one half mile north of the historic western terminus of Interstate 76. The state of Colorado originally used a sequential exit numbering scheme for its Interstate highways. By the late 1970's, Colorado was in a period of transition to a milepost exit numbering system. Take note of the dual exit tabs posted on these overheads. The control city is the east Denver suburb of Aurora, a community along Interstate 70 east of Interstate 270. Photo taken by Michael Summa (1978).
Perspective from Interstate 25 north
Until the early 1990s, Interstate 76 only traveled as far west as Interstate 25. This photograph shows the Exit 216 collector/distributor roadway beginning from the Interstate 25 mainline. Photo taken by Dale Sanderson (04/01).
Eastern Terminus - Interstate 80 - Big Springs, Nebraska
Perspective from Interstate 76 east
One mile west of the eastern terminus of Interstate 76 is this Interstate 80 Junction guide sign. The numbering convention for Interstate termini in the Cornhusker State is to use the milepost of the intersecting route. Therefore Interstate 76 sees Exit 102 for the Interstate 80 mileage at the interchange. The state of Arkansas also adheres to this practice. Photo taken by Steve Hanudel (05/15/06).
This Exit 102 guide sign for Interstate 80 west includes the control city of Sidney. The Cheyenne County seat of 6,282 is 45 miles to the west at the junction with U.S. 385. Photo taken by Steve Hanudel (05/15/06).
A pervasive trumpet interchange demarks the eastern terminus of Interstate 76. Above is the Interstate 80 eastbound mainline and westbound ramp from Interstate 76. The mainline naturally defaults onto Interstate 80 east. That is the reasoning for only the Interstate 80 westbound mentioning of Exit 102. Photo taken by Steve Hanudel (05/15/06).
Pictured here is the beginning of the cloverleaf ramp to Interstate 80 westbound from Interstate 76 east. The sign bridge of Exit 102 includes an Interstate 76 ends panel between the two Interstate 80 panels. This style of format is common for Interstate termini in both Nebraska and adjacent Iowa. Photo taken by Steve Hanudel (05/15/06).
Perspective from Interstate 80 west
Junction Interstate 76 - Exit 102 guide sign on Interstate 80 west. Typical of the two-mile guide sign found in Nebraska, no control city is featured. In the background is a mileage sign, presumably with both Denver and Cheyenne. Denver, Colorado is 189 miles to the southwest. Photo taken by Steve Hanudel (05/15/06).
The first of three sign bridges for the upcoming split of Interstate 76 from Interstate 80 at Exit 102. Sidney is featured as the first control city for Interstate 80, followed by the Wyoming capital city. Cheyenne is 137 miles to the west. Photo taken by Steve Hanudel (05/15/06).
A diagrammatic overhead composes the second sign bridge for Exit 102 of Interstate 80 west. The freeway expands to three lanes for the rural Interstate junction. Interstate 80 drops from 12,000 vehicles per day to 5,000 per day west of the Interstate 76 terminus interchange. Photo taken by Steve Hanudel (05/15/06).
Interstate 76 west begins its journey to the city of Denver. For traffic continuing on Interstate 80 west, a two mile jaunt separates Exit 102 from Exit 100 with the orphaned U.S. 138. U.S. 138 was vastly replaced by Interstate 76 as the primary route between Big Springs, Nebraska and Sterling, Colorado. Photo taken by Steve Hanudel (05/15/06).
Perspective from Interstate 80 east
The junction sign for Interstate 76 is posted just one mile west of Exit 102 on Interstate 80 east. The town of Barton is situated close by to Interstate 80 at this point along the U.S. 138 corridor. U.S. 38 no longer exists, as the U.S. 6 extension overrides the original alignment. Photo taken by Rich Piehl (05/01).
One quarter mile west of the Exit 102 off-ramp for Interstate 76 east. For such an extremely rural junction, it is surprising to find overhead lighting in place. Photo taken by Rich Piehl (05/01).
The Interstate 76 southbound return ramp from Interstate 80 east at Exit 102. The next interchange of Interstate 76 west is with U.S. 385 at Julesburg, Colorado seven miles to the southwest. Travelers continuing east on Interstate 80 will reach Big Springs in five miles. Photo taken by Rich Piehl (05/01).

Sources:

  1. 50 Years of Interstate - Nebraska and the Nation.
  2. Colorado Department of Transportation 50th Anniversary of the Interstate Highway System http://www.dot.state.co.us/50anniversary/.
  3. Colorado Highways: Interstate 76, Matthew E. Salek.

Page Updated May 28, 2015.

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