Interstate 76 (Western)
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.
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
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
Nebraska – 2.48
Cities – none
- Junctions –
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)
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
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
East End – Big Springs, Nebraska
West End – Wheat Ridge, Colorado
West End Throwback
Historic Western Terminus – – Commerce City, Colorado
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).
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).
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).
- 50 Years of Interstate – Nebraska and the Nation. Nebraska Department of Transportation (NDOT).
- Interstate 76 – 50th Anniversary of the Interstate System. Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT).
- Colorado Highways: Interstate 76, Matthew E. Salek.
Page updated February 5, 2020.