Coronavirus Sent I-70 Memorial Day Weekend Traffic Back To 1999

Interstate 70 at the Buffalo Herd Overlook
Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Interstate 70 at the Buffalo Herd Overlook, Monday March 23, 2020.

Let's get this straight: These are not normal times.

So when I tell you that only 119,157 vehicles passed through Interstate 70's Eisenhower-Johnson Memorial Tunnels over Memorial Day Weekend, a 20-year low, you should look at that figure through coronavirus-colored glasses.

Yes, it's a drop of 40,000 vehicles over last year and nearly 60,000 vehicles from 2018, as this chart with Colorado Department of Transportation data shows:

But, of course, we would expect such a drop considering we're in a pandemic and state officials like Gov. Jared Polis have asked Coloradans to recreate within 10 miles of home as much as possible.

And it's also clear that traffic is picking back up, both on I-70 and elsewhere around the state. On Sunday, March 24, just as the state was shutting down, only 9,637 vehicles traveled through the tunnel on what would normally been a busy spring-break ski weekend, off nearly 80 percent from 2019. Last Sunday, that figure was 24,955 and 29,499 on Monday.

This chart shows that upward trend:

Courtesy of CDOT

Traffic counts are increasing in metro Denver, too, a sign that the bounce extends beyond recreation. At Interstate 25 near Broadway, the average number of north-bound vehicles has risen from near 60,000 in early April to more than 100,000 as of last weekend.

Courtesy of CDOT

This CDOT report shows similar trends for other important roads across the state. Traffic volumes on Colorado's interstates have risen by 363 vehicles per day since April 1, according to the report.

Overall, traffic counts from late last week were still down about 20 percent over the same time last year.