The Denver-Boulder Turnpike (now US 36) was completed and opened to traffic. The highway was the first of its kind in Colorado and preceded the introduction of the Interstate system. It cost 25 cents for a pleasant drive from Denver to Boulder through rolling green farmland. Boulder’s population began to grow, and traffic volume so greatly exceeded expectations that the turnpike fees paid off the $6.3 million in bonds in 15 years. The toll road became a free public road in 1967.
Today, motorists can take a quick trip between Boulder and Denver on U.S. 36, but that wasn’t always the case. Before the Denver-Boulder Turnpike was completed in January 1952, travelers took a long and winding journey east on State Highway 7 and south on U.S. 287 to Federal Boulevard. As early as the 1920s, CU engineering professor Roderick Downing proposed a highway between Denver and Boulder, and his idea was finally adopted by the Colorado Legislature in 1947. The project began on October 16, 1950.
The highway was immediately popular when it opened in 1952, even though motorists had to pay a toll of 10¢ to drive to Broomfield and 25¢ to drive to Denver. About 4,000 cars per day traveled on the Turnpike over the next few months, and by 1967 the state had collected enough tolls to pay off the cost of construction 13 years early.
The Turnpike has impacted our area in many ways: Boulder is more closely connected to Denver, workers and tourists have quicker and easier commutes, cities along the Turnpike have grown substantially, and developments like Interlocken and Flatiron Crossing now contribute to the local economy. While modern commuters may complain about traffic on the Turnpike–it’s certainly more congested now than it was in its early years–there’s no doubt that Boulder and the surrounding area are still reaping its benefits.