Be prepared for some of the year’s busiest travel days as Coloradans flock to the mountains for the last big long-weekend extravaganza of the Summer season. Gas prices are the cheapest Labor Day weekend average in three years, and the AAA is predicting a slight increase in traffic volumes.
Last year, I-70’s Eisenhower/Johnson tunnels saw 34,000 vehicles westbound on Friday, 30,000 vehicles westbound on Saturday, 26,000 vehicles eastbound on Sunday, and 31,000 vehicles eastbound on Monday. CDOT’s Statewide Communication’s Manager, Bob Wilson, said this about end-of-weekend travel: “Sunday tends to be our least traveled day when we have Labor Day weekends, but we can still have a significant amount of eastbound traffic. It’s eastbound traffic on Monday that people can expect potential slowdowns and backups. Traffic moves a little better now that we have the express lane in place, but it’s still quite heavy on Monday afternoon coming back into Denver. Usually around 10 to 11 o’clock is when we see the heaviest traffic beginning to head eastbound on Interstate 70.”
At the urging of CDOT and Colorado State Patrol, we are reminding travelers of the importance of preparedness during these high volume travel weekends. Below is essential tips, tricks, and information from our partners:
ENCOUNTERING INCLEMENT WEATHER
The signs of summer are still here: afternoons get hot, clouds start to build, thunder roars – then the downpour! Heavy rains and summer storms can lead to challenging driving conditions. Colorado highways, particularly those in mountainous areas, can be vulnerable to the impacts of weather and the natural environment. Some roadways have already experienced incidents of flash flooding, mudslides and rock falls over the past few weeks. These events can cause major dilemmas for the traveling public and CDOT maintenance crews.
It is important that the traveling public be aware of summer weather conditions and forecasts. Just as motorists prepare for driving in the winter time, during summer months, travelers should also be ready for heavy rain storms, hail storms and what can potentially occur after those storms – flooding, mudslides and falling rocks.
WHY CLOSURES ARE NEEDED
The safety of motorists is vital. When CDOT and CSP determine that a road must be closed, the decision is made to protect everyone including motorists and response crews. The need for some closures is obvious – mudslides cover the highway, large boulders tumble onto the road, or a severe vehicle crash occurs. But some closures may also be needed for an area that appears to be less impacted or less obvious of the required shut-down. The I-70 mountain corridor is a prime example. Some sections of the interstate curve through narrow canyons, the lanes can be divided by concrete barriers or portions of the roadway split with elevated levels. Because of these features, the closure may be needed miles away from the actual incident, so that exits and alternate routes can be accessed. It may also limit the possibilities to turn traffic around.
If you are stuck in a closure waiting for a road to be cleared of mud or rocks, do not leave your car unless absolutely necessary. Never hang out in the grassy median located between lanes. If traffic is moving in the opposite direction, the median can be a hazardous area. Emergency response vehicles and heavy equipment may also need the median area to move about and access the emergency scene.
BE PREPARED FOR CLOSURES
Highway closures can last for as little as a few minutes or for as long as several hours. When drivers set out on a trip, especially through high country roads or the I-70 mountain corridor, it would be wise to have the car supplied with an emergency kit. The kit should contain at the very minimum: water, snacks, flashlight, and a blanket. Remember to also carry water for your pets if you’re traveling with animals. You may even consider packing some items to keep you or children occupied while waiting in the car. Activity books, colored pencils or a deck of cards can help pass the time.
-Never drive through any flooded area, you do not know how deep or how fast the water is running.
-Driving too fast on wet roads or in flooded areas can cause a vehicle to hydroplane. Never use your cruise control during rainy conditions with standing water on the roadway.
-Water and mud can contain unknown hazards hidden under the surface – rocks or other debris, like plant material and tree branches.
-Leave extra room between your vehicle and others on the road at all times.
-In inclement weather, even vehicles with 4wd can not stop any quicker on slick roads
-Check the pressure in all tires, including your spare
-Worn tires can’t grip the road well and can be extremely hazardous. Check your tires by performing the Quarter Test
While things may get wild out there on Colorado's roads this weekend, you can protect yourself and your travels by following these guidelines and being prepared. Check out our travel forecast for additional information on the best and worst times to drive on I-70 this weekend, and always remember, please allow for extra travel time, and frequently check CoTrip.org to know before you go. Have fun and stay safe!
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