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.
Interstate 76 from Denver to Fort Morgan and Brush is part of High Priority Corridor 14: Heartland Expressway.
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 east, U.S. 138 takes over as the parallel route to Big Springs, Nebraska.
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