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CDOT Wants Drivers To Change Habits To Ease I-70 Congestion

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IDAHO SPRINGS, Colo. (CBS4) – Almost every weekend traffic in the mountains is a challenge, and this holiday weekend is no exception. So the Colorado Department of Transportation has been coming up with some new ways to get drivers to change their travel habits.

For the first time since the 1960s CDOT put money toward the problem this year with the opening of the eastbound Twin Tunnel in Idaho Springs. Early indications are that it’s working, but congestion is still a problem from Summit County through Georgetown.

“We still do have a lot of traffic up there and we still do have a lot of need for some final solutions on the I-70 mountain corridor, we just have to find the money to do it,” Amy Ford with CDOT said.

After spending $100 million to alleviate eastbound traffic, CDOT is hoping some cheaper options will stop traffic jams on Interstate 70. Last week they stressed to drivers to change their peak time.

“The goal of ‘Change Your Peak Time’ really is this — to get people to think differently about how they enjoy the mountains and when they travel back so they can avoid some of those peak rush hours and kind of spread the traffic out,” Ford said.

Teaming up with the nonprofit “GoI70” coalition, businesses from Vail to Winter Park to Idaho Springs are offering deals to keep people off the road.

“The more people know the more they’ll think about how they travel,” Ford said.

There is also a pilot program at Winter Park. An orange sign tells skiers about traffic delays on I-70. It’s still awaiting town approval to become permanent, but Winter Park officials say it’s working. Business is up on Sundays at a nearby restaurant and officials say it’s important to affect the drivers before they get in their car.

“What we have found is that it actually did have an impact. We used to have about a 2- hour delay, this was over the summer that we were doing this,” Ford said. “We think because of some of this aggressive messaging, even though we had more traffic in the mountains, we reduced that delay to about an hour.”

The tunnel expansions combined with changing driver behavior is all building to a three lane approach next year.

“In 2015, what we are looking at doing is opening what is called a “peak period shoulder lane,” which would be a tolled lane where we are going to shave out the shoulder there on I-70 that will open up during those heavy rush hours and allow people to travel.”

That should shorten peak congestion commutes by half an hour.

“You combine actually operation improvements on the road, plus informational improvements that we’re doing with a broad campaign,” Ford said. “We really do think this will have a an accumulative impact on the traffic and congestion on the I-70 corridor.”

CDOT isn’t just looking at this Sunday’s afternoon commute. This week a $55 million expansion of the westbound Twin Tunnel was approved and will be done by the end of the year.

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