State taking steps to ease I-70 traffic congestion in mountains

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Photo: Interstate 70 winter traffic
CDOT is tackling traffic congestion on Interstate 70 in the mountains in part through a public awareness campaign. Statistics show traffic accidents, not volume, account for as much as 60 percent of all delays.

The Colorado Department of Transporation is taking steps to try to avoid major traffic delays on Interstate 70 through the mountains this winter.

CDOT spokeswoman Amy Ford says the hope is to avoid another "snowmaggedon," like the one in February of this year. Snow, heavy traffic and unprepared drivers caused what is normally a one-to-two hour drive from the mountains to Denver to last three-to-five hours.

"What you saw were such massive delays we said, 'never again,' Ford says.

About 180,000 vehicles are expected to pass through the Eisenhower Tunnel over Thanksgiving weekend.

The agency is committing more resources to the mountain corridor. “We’re bringing on more plows, more information resources and improving our traffic management," Ford says.

CDOT and the state patrol also plan stepped up enforcement of tire tread and chain laws.

Bald tires cause many accidents during the winter. So state officials are urging drivers to make sure they have at least one-eighth of an inch of tread.

CDOT also plans to begin a partnership with tire companies throughout the state to offer discounts on winter tires, designed specifically to grip cold and snowy roads.

If tire treads are less than optimal, drivers should have traction devices to place on their wheels. That chain law applies to passenger vehicles as well as commercial ones when conditions warrant.

In addition, a ski pool program will be added by the Denver Council of Governments. When it begins in January, people will be able to go online, check out a van and then pick up their friends to head to ski areas together.

The I-70 Coalition of mountain communities and resorts also will continue incentives to stay in the mountains a bit longer to avoid the peak travel time back to the metro area.

Work to widen Interstate 70 also continues. CDOT is adding a toll lane on the shoulder of the road eastbound for 13 miles from Empire Juncton toward Idaho Springs. That will be used during peak traffic times.