DENVER – The Colorado Department of Transportation is warning drivers to expect lots of traffic over the next two weeks. Their piece of advice to drivers: leave early and don't be in a rush.
The week of Christmas is one of the busiest travel periods in Colorado.
Interstate 70 mountain corridor can be especially congested this time of year. According to CDOT, in 2018, 286,049 cars passed through the Eisenhower/Johnson Memorial Tunnels during the one week period surrounding Christmas.
The Friday before Christmas saw the most traffic with 48,537 vehicles passing through the tunnels. The day after Christmas saw the second highest traffic count with 46,222 vehicles.
This year, CDOT says I-70 west from Denver is expected to be particularly heavy on Christmas Eve, Dec. 24.
Wintry weather can make backups even worse for drivers. CDOT will have plows and crews ready to go around the clock during the holiday travel period to keep roads clear from any snow that may fall.
Travelers are also urged to check that their tires are appropriate for winter driving conditions. You need winter or all weather tires with 3/16’ of tread or to carry an alternative traction device like chains or an autosock.
Mountain driving requires extra caution because the weather conditions can change quickly, including with sun and snow.
Over the next two weeks, CDOT is anticipating safety closures of the eastbound side of I-70 beginning at Floyd Hill from sunrise until about 8:30 a.m. due to sun glare.
“The sun’s angle, in combination with the grade of the hill and the highway’s configuration, can create a blinding sun glare for drivers as they head eastbound up Floyd Hill (mile 244 to 248 – east of Idaho Springs). The intense sun glare begins as far east as Genesee,” CDOT said.
So far in 2019, there have been 567 traffic deaths on Colorado’s roadways. According to CDOT, the leading causes of crashes are speeding, distracted driving and driving under the influence.
“Please drive the speed limit and slow down for slick roads, drop the distractions, drive sober and give yourself plenty of time to reach your destination. It’s also important to leave a safe distance behind the vehicle ahead,” CDOT said.
To avoid some of the traffic, CDOT is urging drivers to use the I-70 Mountain Express Lanes. CDOT says it “is a great option for motorists who want to avoid traffic and save time going back to Denver on I-70.”
The Express Lane will be available every day from Dec. 21 through Jan. 1.
Drivers can also avoid sitting in mountain traffic by using the new Snowstang bus service. On Saturdays and Sundays, the bus connects Denver and Lakewood to Loveland Ski Area, Arapahoe Basin Ski Area and Steamboat Springs. Tickets range between $25-$40 for a round trip journey.
To help ease holiday travel congestion, CDOT is suspending most lane closures related to construction projects.
You can check current road conditions and travel information at COtrip.org.