FRISCO, Colo. (CBS4) – Colorado’s ski season really takes off this weekend with a flurry of big resorts opening.
Keystone, Breckenridge and Copper Mountain all welcomed skiers and boarders on Friday, and that means traffic will be picking up along Interstate 70.
Traffic in the I-70 mountain corridor is one of the state’s biggest transportation challenges, and a group is working behind the scenes to make the drive smoother.
Margaret Bowes leads the I-70 Coalition, and she showed CBS4 even she gets headaches driving on the interstate.
“Even when there’s no traffic, I-70 is frustrating,” she said during a drive a CBS4 crew accompanied her on.
“Sometimes (residents) feel like they’re held hostage by I-70.”
Bowes, a Summit County resident, drives the mountain corridor used by thousands of Coloradans every year.
“Traffic has been bad for a long time,” she said.
It’s no secret that it’s only getting worse. The backups can add hours to an already stressful drive through the high country. And it’s not just ski traffic.
“It’s our lifeline. It’s our main street. And when you want to get from one community to another or if you have a plane to catch in Denver, it really does sometimes rule your schedule,” Bowes said.
Bowes said the mission of the I-70 Coalition, a nonprofit, is to study both short and long term goals.
“The coalition was formed so that all the mountain communities, the local governments and the businesses could come together and really look at what their vision was for improvements for the long-term vision of I-70.”
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The coalition is hoping a new plan from the Colorado Department of Transportation might offer drivers some high tech relief. The hope is that by 2020, smart cars will be talking to each other and to the road.
“We really want to be on the leading edge of that and be ready to communicate with those vehicles as they’re traveling on I-70,” said CDOT spokesman Patrick Chavez.
Officials with CDOT say drivers in the high country can help by avoiding well known peak times.
“People can start making that educated decision whether they need to be on the road or not or if they should stay (where they are) and wait for traffic to die down,” Chavez said.
According to the I-70 Coalition website the following “winter traffic patterns” on Interstate 70 are based on historical data:
Friday Westbound – Light to moderate traffic is possible from about 3:30-8:00 p.m.
Saturday Westbound – If you want to avoid skier traffic, plan to leave the Front Range no later than 6:00 a.m. Traffic is consistently at its worst right around 8:00 a.m. resulting in up to one hour of additional travel time. Speeds return to normal soon after Noon.
Saturday Eastbound – Saturday eastbound traffic tends to be much lower in volume than Sunday. Many Saturdays see very little congestion but it varies by weekend. To play it safe, avoid the 2:00 – 6:00 p.m timeframe.
Sunday Westbound – Traffic due to volume is not typically an issue westbound on Sunday mornings. To play it safe, avoid the 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. timeframe.
Sunday Eastbound – I-70 traffic starts to build as early as 11:00 a.m. The peak of the traffic occurs between 3:00-6:00 and drops off soon after 7:00 pm. Expect heavy traffic. To avoid the jam, stay in the mountains for dinner, or spend Sunday night and head back to work or school Monday morning. GoI70.com Peak time Deals provide incentives to avoid peak travel times!
Holiday Weekends – when a national holiday falls on a Monday, you can count on Monday afternoon eastbound traffic to mimic a typical Sunday pattern, but with potentially more volume. On the flip side, the Sunday of holiday weekends tends to have slightly less congestion than usual.