6 million more daily vehicles on Colorado interstates than 2003

Local News

Heavy traffic on westbound I-70 west of metro Denver as people head to the mountains on Jan. 15, 2021. Credit: KDVR

DENVER (KDVR) — Hopefully, an extra 800,000 Denver metro Coloradans won’t make road problems match the March 2003 blizzard’s road results.

The incoming storm will be one of the biggest snow events since March 2003.

The KDVR Pinpoint Weather team forecasts several feet of snow, depending where in Colorado. Denver and Adams counties may only get between one and two feet, while foothills areas in Clear Creek, Summit and Gilpin counties may get as much as six feet.

The Colorado Department of Transportation and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock have both begged area residents not to travel over the weekend, though CDOT itself seems confident it can at least handle the plowing load.

“With this particular storm, we haven’t seen this volume of snow in a very long time. That’s why we are urging motorists to get to their destination well ahead of the storm and not venture out,” said CDOT spokesperson Tamara Rollison. “Our crews are going to be focused on the interstates first, they are focused on the heavily traveled routes first. Making numerous passes during the brunt of the storm, trying to keep the interstates passable.” 

The interstates will need it, considering the Denver metro and Rocky Mountain foothills have roughly 6 million more daily interstate travelers than in 2003.

Statewide, the amount of vehicles on interstates during an average day in 2003 was 28 million. In 2019, the daily number of vehicles had risen 38% to 41 million a day.

Most of that daily increase in drivers comes from the Denver metro area.

In Adams, Arapahoe, Clear Creek, Denver, Douglas, Jefferson and Summit counties, the average daily number of interstate vehicles increased by 42%, from 15.5 million to 22 million.

An increase in population was bound to create more traffic.

Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Denver, Douglas and Jefferson counties only held a combined 2.72 million people in 2003.

In 2019, those counties held a combined 3.5 million, about 29% more than during the last storm.

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