Interstate 76 (Western)

Interstate 76 Colorado Interstate 76 Nebraska
History
East End
West End

Overview

The western Interstate 76 links Denver, Colorado, with I-80 in southwest Nebraska as part of regional route east to Omaha. The freeway varies between four and six lanes from I-70 east to the separation with U.S. 85 at Commerce City. Commuters follow the route northeast to Brighton and Lochbuie, with the remainder of I-76 serving truckers and long distance travelers headed east to Fort Morgan, Brush and Sterling.

High Priority Corridor

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

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.

History

I-76 was originally designated as Interstate 80S. It was renumbered to Interstate 76 on January 1, 1976.2 The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials AASHTO previously approved the change 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.

The 3.15 mile section of I-80S in Nebraska was completed in 1969.1 Construction on Interstate 76 in Colorado commenced in 1958, with a variety of sections from U.S. 85 to Crook in northeast Logan County opened in 1966. The western most segment of I-76 between I-25 and I-70 was the last to be completed. This stretch was built in conjunction with the reconstruction of the Mousetrap Interchange at I-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

Route Information

  • East End – Big Springs, NE

  • West End – Wheat Ridge, CO

  • Branch Routes – 0
  • Total Mileage – 186.48

Colorado – 184.00

  • Cities – Denver, Fort Morgan, Sterling

  • JunctionsI-70 I-25 I-270

Nebraska – 2.48

  • Cities – none

  • JunctionsI-80

Source: December 31, 2018 Interstate Route Log and Finders List

I-76 Annual Average Daily Traffic (AADT)

Location Vehicles per day
Big Spring, NE 6,875

Source: 2014 Traffic Flow Map of the State Highways (State of Nebraska)

I-80S - Denver, CO - 1968
Interstate 80S north of Denver – 1968 Colorado Official Highway Map

The four mile section of Interstate 80S leading northeast from I-25 to U.S. 85 was constructed from January 1966 to October 11, 1968 as the cost of $5 million.2

Northeast Colorado - 1972
Northeastern Colorado – 1972

All of Interstate 76 (then I-80S) between I-25/U.S. 87 in Denver and the Nebraska state line was complete with the exception of U.S. 6 expressway segments including: Vasquez Boulevard to U.S. 85 north (upgraded by 1976), Sable Boulevard to Hudson (upgraded by 1994), and East Wiggins to west of Fort Morgan (upgraded by 1980).1

Highway Guides

East End I-80 – Big Springs, Nebraska

I-76 East at I-80

I-76 east at I-80 - Deuel County, NE

One mile ahead of Interstate 80 (Exit 102) on I-76 east. The Nebraska exit number system for interchanges at the end of an Interstate highway uses the milepost of the intersecting route. The state of Arkansas also uses this practice. 04/22/17

I-76 east at I-80 - Deuel County, NE

The control point for I-80 west from I-76 is Sidney. Seat of Cheyenne County, the city of over 6,600 lies 45 miles to the west at the north split of U.S. 385 from Interstate 80. 04/22/17

I-76 east at I-80 - Deuel County, NE

A wide trumpet interchange (Exit 102) joins the east end of Interstate 76 with I-80. The mainline defaults onto I-80 eastbound toward North Platte. 04/22/17

I-76 east at I-80 - Deuel County, NE

An end sign appears at the separation of traffic for I-80 east to Lincoln and Omaha and the loop ramp (Exit 102) for I-80 west to Sidney and Cheyenne, Wyoming. This sign format is common in both Nebraska and Iowa. 04/22/17

I-80 West at I-76

I-80 west at I-76 - Big Springs, NE

Leading west from Big Springs, Interstate 80 advances four miles to the split with I-76 at Exit 102. An adjacent mileage sign lists Cheyenne, Wyoming at 148 miles and Denver, Colorado at 189 miles. 04/22/17

I-80 west at I-76 - Deuel County, NE

Matching the course of the adjacent South Platte River, Interstate 80 curves southward toward the trumpet interchange (Exit 102) with I-76 west. 04/22/17

I-80 west at I-76 - Deuel County, NE

A third westbound lane opens ahead of the separation with Interstate 76 west. Traffic partitions somewhat evenly for both routes, with 2014 NDOT traffic counts totaling 7,625 vpd for I-80 and 6,875 vpd on I-76. 04/22/17

I-80 west at I-76 - Deuel County, NE

Interstate 76 angles southwest into Colorado, paralleling the South Platte River to Julesburg, Sterling and Fort Morgan. Interstate 80 continues west across the river to meet U.S. 138 nearby. 04/22/17

I-80 East at I-76

I-80 east at I-76 - Deuel County, NE

Continuing beyond the underpass at U.S. 138 and the Union Pacific Railroad, I-80 advances one mile east over the South Platte River to Interstate 76 west. 04/22/17

I-80 east at I-76 - Deuel County, NE

One quarter mile ahead of the trumpet interchange (Exit 102) with Interstate 76 west leading back to Julesburg, Colorado on I-80 east. I-76 parallels U.S. 138 southwest to Sterling. 04/22/17

I-80 east at I-76 - Deuel County, NE

Exit 102 departs Interstate 80 east for I-76 west. Connections with U.S. 385 south near Julesburg lead motorists south to Holyoke, Colorado. 04/22/17

I-76 East End Throwback

Button copy signs along Interstate 80 west at the split with I-76 were replaced by 2006.

I-76 east at I-80 - 2006

One mile ahead of Interstate 80 on I-76 east near the Road 4 overpass. Photo taken by Steve Hanudel (05/15/06).

West End I-70 – Wheat Ridge, Colorado

I-76 West at I-70

I-76 west at SH 121 - Arvada, CO

Just prior to the merge with Interstate 70, a distributor roadway (Exit 1A) departs from I-76 west and I-70 at Exit 269A to SH 121 (Wadsworth Boulevard) in Arvada. 04/23/17

I-76 west at I-70 - Arvada, CO

An end shield for Interstate 76 was added at the merge point with I-70 west in 2008. I-76 previously ended with three lanes joining I-70. The merge was eventually rebuilt with concrete striped for two lanes. 04/23/17

I-70 East at I-76

I-70 east at I-76 - Wheat Ridge, CO

Heading east from SH 391 (Kipling Street) along the Wheat Ridge city line, Interstate 70 approaches back to back ramps for SH 121 (Wadsworth Boulevard) to Arvada and I-76 east to I-25 north and Commerce City. 04/23/17

I-70 east at I-76 - Wheat Ridge, CO

Traffic to SH 121 (Wadsworth Boulevard) departs for the cities of Arvada and Wheat Ridge a half mile ahead of the wye interchange (Exit 269B) with Interstate 76 east. 08/11/16

I-70 east at I-76 - Wheat Ridge, CO

Two lanes separate at Left Exit 269B for Interstate 76 east just beyond SH 121 (Wadsworth Boulevard). 08/11/16

I-70 east at I-76 - Arvada, CO

I-76 nips the northwestern corner of Denver en route to Commerce City and Brighton. Fort Morgan lies 80 miles to the northeast. 08/11/16

I-76 West End Throwback

I-70 east at I-76 - 2002

The initial guide sign for I-76 (Exit 269B) on I-70 east references the connection at Exit 5 for I-25 north to Fort Collins. Photo taken by Bruce Telfeyan (07/12/02).

I-70 east at I-76 - 2002
I-70 east at I-76 - 2002

Interstate 70 advances east with three lanes into Denver as back to back lane drops occur for both SH 121 (Wadsworth Boulevard) and the left exit for I-76 east. Photos taken by Bruce Telfeyan (07/12/02).

I-70 east at I-76 - 2002

Replaced guide signs at the eastbound split of I-70/76. Photo taken by Dale Sanderson (04/01).

Historic Western Terminus – I-25 – Commerce City, Colorado

I-76 west at I-25 - 2001

Interstate 76 west at the directional cloverleaf interchange (Exit 5A) with I-25 south. Prior to September 1993 all traffic on I-76 was required to exit onto I-25. Completion of the I-270 western extension nearby eliminated the northbound ramp for I-25. Photo taken by Dale Sanderson (04/01).

I-25 north at I-76 - 2001

Construction from 1989 to September 15, 1993 expanded the interchange joining I-25/76 with new ramps for the completed route southwest to Wheat Ridge.2 This view looks at the c/d roadway departure from I-25 north. A connection to 70th Avenue was added later. Photo taken by Dale Sanderson (04/01).

I-25 south at I-76 - 1978

Approaching the trumpet interchange joining I-25 south with the western terminus of I-76. The control city for I-76 east was the Denver suburb of Aurora, a community along I-70 east of I-270. Until the late 1970s, Colorado used sequential exit numbering along Interstate highways. Photo taken by Michael Summa (1978).

Sources:

  1. 50 Years of Interstate – Nebraska and the Nation. Nebraska Department of Transportation (NDOT).
  2. Interstate 76 – 50th Anniversary of the Interstate System. Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT).
  3. Colorado Highways: Interstate 76, Matthew E. Salek. http://www.mesalek.com/colo/i76.html

Page updated February 5, 2020.