It’s hard to love Interstate 70, a highway that mostly makes the news for snow closures, construction delays, and endless debates over how to ease the horrendous traffic jams. But if we follow I-70 back in time, it leads us straight into one of Colorado history’s most dramatic episodes: the explosion of post-World War II recreational development, when faded mining towns and quiet ranching valleys morphed into the motel clusters and ski resorts of a new mass outdoor leisure age.
In this Golden Beer Talk, University of Denver historian Bill Philpott will tell the surprising history of I-70: how the high country ended up with a superhighway it was never supposed to get, why the interstate ended up taking the twists and turns it did, and what those tell us about the changing economic and environmental politics of their time — with implications for our own time. At the very least, this talk will give you something to think about the next time you’re stuck in Eisenhower Tunnel traffic behind some SUV from Texas.
Bill Philpott, who grew up in the Denver suburbs, teaches history at the University of Denver. He is the author of Vacationland: Tourism and Environment in the Colorado High Country, which won the 2014 Spur Award for Contemporary Western Nonfiction from the Western Writers of America.