Posted for Nancy Yearout
RE/MAX Properties of the Summit, Breckenridge, Colorado
Traffic counts at the Eisenhower Tunnel hit a two-year high for Presidents Day
Weekend this year, following a general upward trend in data that shows traffic
on the Interstate 70 mountain corridor is getting worse.
on the eastbound lanes Monday afternoon, with more than 24,000 cars passing
through the tunnel. It was a 3 percent increase from numbers recorded on the
same holiday in 2012 and the highest traffic count since 2010.
I-70, the primary thoroughfare between Denver and the mountains, has been on an
uphill slope, increasing roughly 3 percent per year at the Eisenhower Tunnel,
with some fluctuations relative to snowfall, the economy and the price of gas,
It's a trend that is expected to continue as the number
of people living in the Denver area grows.
“The Front Range population
is projected to continue to increase over the coming years,” said Margaret
Bowes, head of the I-70 Coalition, a group of stakeholders that pushes for
traffic solutions on the mountain corridor. “We fully expect that, though there
will be some fluctuations from year to year, the trend will be for traffic to
continue to increase.”
More than 82,000 vehicles passed through the
Eisenhower Tunnel on Saturday and Sunday. According to the latest I-70
future-needs study, traffic on peak weekends could increase to nearly 200,000 by
2035, with travel times growing accordingly.
To head off the problem,
local officials and I-70 corridor stakeholders are pushing a combination of
long- and short-term solutions aimed at reducing congestion and increasing
capacity on the highway.
“We're always focused on keeping the work
toward a long-term solution,” Bowes said. “But we're also focused very much on
near-term and using travel demand management strategies. A big part of that is
encouraging off-peak travel.”
Urging drivers to avoid the periods when
the highway generally sees the heaviest effort has been a multifaceted effort
that has gained steam in the last year. New smartphone applications allow
drivers to view up-to-date travel times and road conditions, while the I-70
Coalition is collaborating with local businesses and resorts to initiate deals
to incentivize travelers to make the drive back to Denver at off-peak times.
Last summer, the Colorado Department of Transportation also began
posting messages on electronic signs on the highway encouraging drivers to plan
around the predictable periods of heavy traffic, such as Sunday afternoons, when
many mountain visitors are returning to Denver.
say they may continue to use electronic messages, which were effective in
shifting driver travel times, but the corridor will likely continue to see heavy
traffic, particularly on weekends.
“It's definitely under
consideration,” CDOT spokesman Bob Wilson said. “But we're going to still get
plenty of traffic up in the mountains.”
Long-term projects are generally
focused on increasing the highway's capacity, beginning with an expansion of
eastbound I-70 to three lanes at the Twin Tunnels, near Idaho Springs. The
project will require a full closure of the eastbound highway lanes from April
through October, but is expected to improve the flow of traffic when complete by
expanding a key choke point on the corridor.
Courtesy of the Summit Daily News