Written by: Jason Pohl

Cars and tractor-trailers raced by the roadside-tent just 50 feet away Tuesday as if nothing had changed.

Inside that tent, more than 50 dignitaries, planners and workers celebrated the things that had changed over the past seven years as construction on the U.S. 34 and Interstate 25 interchange came to a close.

“This is a great day for the northern Colorado region,” Loveland Mayor Cecil Gutierrez said at the ribbon-cutting ceremony. “As Greeley expands and the traffic demands increase, this will make entering and exiting the I-25 area easier. It will be safer.”

At nearly $12 million, the project extended acceleration and deceleration zones for cars entering and exiting the area, keeping freeway traffic moving at a constant speed.

Additional improvements included removing a loop ramp that contributed to a “significantly higher than expected accident rate,” said Scott Waterman, a design project manager with Wilson & Company.

The project consisted of three stages — the planning, final design and the actual construction phases — according to Program Manager Phil Weisbach. The construction phase lasted for two years.

Funds were part of the Master Finance Agreement among Centerra, McWHINNEY Development and the city of Loveland, which set aside bonds for additional projects in the region in 2008.

The interchange was the largest of the projects.

“This was a great team effort,” said Kim Perry, president of the Centerra Metropolitan District.

What made this project unique was that no federal dollars were used. Instead, it was funded by a public and private partnership through property and sales tax, according to Perry, who said safety was the top concern.

She also said the future economic impact for the area was important. “Cities and businesses hinge on good transit districts,” Perry said. Much of the work was done at night to allow I-25 lanes to remain open during the day.

“The public was very understanding,” Gutierrez said. Future interstate projects are in the early stages of planning, but no definite plans are set.

“Successful cities embrace essentiality,” Gutierrez said. “We look forward to the future.”