The Interstate 25 South Gap express lanes between Castle Rock and El Paso County opened early Dec. 10, the centerpiece of a major highway project on the route connecting metro Denver and Colorado Springs.

The lanes opened on the same day that the first measurable snowfall of the season blanketed parts of the Front Range.

“There is one new express lane in each direction on I-25 between Castle Rock and Monument,” the Colorado Department of Transportation said in a statement. “Tolls are currently being waived as the project opened the lanes far ahead of schedule.”

The new lanes span 14 miles of the 18-mile South Gap widening project.

“Opening the express lanes early improves safety and travel reliability on the I-25 South Gap corridor,” CDOT Executive Director Shoshana Lew said in the statement. “Commuters will have reliable travel times over the long-term, and experience a vastly improved stretch of I-25 between Monument and Castle Rock. Whether commuting to work or traveling the state, drivers will reach their destinations quicker and safer. We are thrilled to open the express lanes a year ahead of schedule and within budget.”

With the express lanes’ opening, CDOT urged motorists to:

– NOT cross the solid white lines on the freeway.

– Enter and exit at the designated areas only, indicated with a white dotted line.
– Obey posted speed limits.
– NOT use express lanes as a passing lane. (Express lanes cannot be used to pass slower moving vehicles.)

Per CDOT’s announcement Dec. 10:

“Motorists can enter through the dashed white lines northbound two miles north of County Line Road and at Larkspur, or southbound just south of Castle Rock and Larkspur. Tolls are temporarily waived. There is increased enforcement by the Colorado State Patrol.”

The agency added:

“We urge motorists to be safe when they are driving the Gap at all times, but especially when there is wet and slushy conditions. Do not speed, drive to the conditions and leave plenty room behind the vehicle ahead.”

With the opening of the lanes, there is still work to be done on the overall South Gap project. Per CDOT:

“While much of the construction is complete including the express lanes, wider shoulders, five reconstructed bridges, four wildlife crossings, new pavement and enhanced technology, other work remains to be done. Through the spring and summer of 2022, crews will finish the remaining permanent paving and striping operations near Larkspur, tolling infrastructure and other minor construction activities to reach project completion.”

The agency said that motorists “should expect various overnight lane closures, including the express lanes, while the last of the construction wraps up. The project is scheduled to be completely finished by November 2022.”