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It’s wintertime in the Rockies. For skiers and snowboarders along the Front Range, that means endless prayers to the snow gods and weekend days out hitting the slopes. But, it also means winter road conditions, bumper to bumper traffic jams and frustrated drivers.
Like many Front Rangers, I have spent countless hours crawling along the I-70 corridor. Few things are as frustrating as inching along at an average pace of five miles per hour, when the minimum speed limit is supposed to be 55. Usually after four or five hours of driving when I’ve reached my end destination, I’ve hit boiling point. All I can talk about is the abysmal state of the highway, and the utter failure of Colorado lawmakers to address the issue.
Ski traffic along I-70 is among some of the worst in the country. Nearly 11 million cars pass through the corridor each year, making it one of the most frequently traveled stretches of highway in the U.S.
When poor weather and weekend-ski traffic are combined, it can take four, five, or six hours just to get back to Denver. This drive should really only take about 90 minutes. For being the sole east-to-west artery of Colorado, this level of chaos is outrageous.
Aside from the sheer frustration that drivers experience because of more time spent on the road than on the slopes, the drive is bad for the environment. Such a high volume of traffic dumps several tons of carbon into the atmosphere (which, among other things is bad for the snow). It also greatly increases the likelihood for accidents—especially when combined with winter driving conditions. So hasn’t anything been done about it yet?
There are options on the table: building a train that runs parallel to the I-70 corridor, revamping the public transportation system, expanding the highway and encouraging carpools. Yet with each of these hypothetical solutions comes a set of hypothetical excuses.
Lawmakers argue that reorganizing the I-70 corridor will take too long. Not to mention that taxpayers will have to bear the brunt of the overhaul, and could therefore be too costly. One thing remains certain is that the issue of winter ski traffic won’t solve itself.
What most don’t seem to realize is that there needs to be an effort from all sides in order to alleviate weekend-ski traffic. Local lawmakers need to be serious about finding answers to the problem, whatever they may be.
Colorado drivers also need to be a part of the solution. Organized carpools would drastically reduce the volume of traffic on the highway. It does no good to simply complain about the problem without taking some individual initiative.
Attempts to fix the I-70 problem have been meager. For example, one bill suggested creating a reversible lane, depending on which direction (east or west) is experiencing higher traffic.
The attitude of day-trip drivers so far has been less than helpful as well. Better planning and more emphasis on carpools could definitely go a long way.
Reorganizing Colorado highways to accommodate the growing amount of ski traffic is going to take both time and money. This issue gets worse and worse each year, especially as Colorado ski resorts continue to become more popular.
A revamp of I-70 is desperately needed, and it is undeniably the responsibility of Colorado lawmakers to take charge. In the meantime, drivers need to be wary of how they individually affect traffic. Make efforts to carpool. Avoid peak travel times. Rather take the ever-popular route, skip work or school and hit the slopes on a weekday instead.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Taryne Tosetti at Taryne.firstname.lastname@example.org.