I-70’s mountain corridor has literally never been busier. What is Colorado doing about it?

Traffic on Interstate 70 through the Eisenhower Tunnel broke three different records last weekend.

The Eisenhower Tunnel under construction. (John Gordon/Western History & Genealogy Dept./Denver Public Library)
The Eisenhower Tunnel under construction. (John Gordon/Western History & Genealogy Dept./Denver Public Library)
The Eisenhower Tunnel under construction. (John Gordon/Western History & Genealogy Dept./Denver Public Library)

Traffic on Interstate 70 through the Eisenhower Tunnel broke three different records last weekend.

Almost 158,000 vehicles passed through the tunnel between last Friday and Sunday, about 3 percent higher than the previous three-day record.

Sunday was the highest single day count, with 54,659 vehicles tallied through the tunnel’s mouths about 60 miles west of Denver. And the busiest hour of all recorded time was early on Sunday afternoon, with 4,892 autos passing through the tunnel.

Of course, it’s not like these records were standing very long. All three records were previously set in the summer of 2016. An analysis of previous years’ data shows that summer traffic has steadily climbed since 2012, and it’s not expected to stop anytime soon.

The Colorado Department of Transportation estimates that travel times on westbound I-70 could triple by 2035, as 5280 reported in a feature on the topic. In that article, CDOT’s director said that one way to expand the Eisenhower Tunnel would be to start charging tolls at its entrances in order to fund additional lanes.

CDOT also recently added the variable-toll lane, which the agency claims has improved travel times for all lanes.

Another option: a high-speed train from Jefferson County to Eagle County, which was estimated in 2013 to cost $20 billion. There has been no movement on that lately.

For now, if you’re trying to avoid these jams, the good news is that July is the worst month of the year on I-70, so this month should be a bit better. You could also try traveling early and late, as the busiest hour of the year so far was just after noon.

Or you could go hiking somewhere close. I like Chicago Lakes for an alpine experience near Denver.

Andrew Kenney

Author: Andrew Kenney

Andrew Kenney writes about public spaces, Denver phenomena and whatever else. He previously worked for six years as a reporter at The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C. His most prized possession is his collection of bizarre voicemail. Leave him one at 303-502-2803, or email akenney@denverite.com.