Congestion-Easing I-70 Traffic Easing Efforts Set To Go This Winter
Last year, a snowy winter in the Colorado mountains dumped nearly three times the normal snowfall on the Interstate 70 corridor out of Denver – and created some of the worst weekend traffic jams on record.
Tales of a one-hour trip taking five hours or more prompted Colorado Department of Transportation to implement a number of short-term solutions last season – and to aggressively study methods to solve the problem in the long term.
It’s about 60 miles from Denver to Summit County on I-70, and the interstate typically carries more than 40,000 vehicles a day during the skiing and snowboarding season. The route is the main day-trip artery to seven major Colorado resorts. It connects motorists to another dozen beyond Summit and Eagle Counties. Especially on weekends, I-70 ferries thousands of motorists to these resorts.
The comfort and enthusiasm of the millions of skiers and riders who hit the Colorado slopes is a main concern for industry group Colorado Ski Country USA, which says it is working with transportation officials to ease the congestion this season.
“Our association and our resorts are cooperating with CDOT on several of their new initiatives and are doing what we can with our seat at the table to address the I-70 traffic problem,” Colorado Ski Country USA’s Jenn Rudolph told SnoCountry.com.
“We also recognize that skiers and snowboarders are not the only users of the corridor, and there isn’t a magic bullet to solve the problem easily. But it’s nice to see some creative ideas from CDOT for this winter and see that they are working with all constituents involved.”
The highway department has hired a I-70 incident commander to focus on the issue. Other out-of the box solutions on eastbound I-70 out of Summit County this winter include:
· Ramp metering.
· Tighter enforcement of chain and snow tire laws, including volunteers passing out fliers fnoting bald tires in ski area parking lots.
· Snowplow escorts, where traffic will be held up in Summit County for snowplows to lead the way uphill to Eisenhower Tunnel.
· Big-rig trucks parking during busy times and inclement weather to reduce congestion due to slow uphill speeds.
In the near future, state officials expect to open up a third lane on I-70 from Idaho Springs to Empire in 2015 to thin out congestion on winter weekends in both directions.
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Photo: Eisenhower Tunnel on I-70 to gets congestion relief (Colorado Dept. of Transportation)