I-70 traffic is likely ‘inescapable’ over Labor Day weekend as skies clear and gas prices drop | SummitDaily.com

I-70 traffic is likely ‘inescapable’ over Labor Day weekend as skies clear and gas prices drop

Declining gas prices and pristine weather will set the stage for a busy Labor Day weekend in Summit County. Traffic may be hard to avoid, so officials are encouraging travelers to leave early and drive safely.

Alleviating some traffic, the Colorado Department of Transportation is suspending all construction projects Friday at noon to reduce potential traffic delays. The only exception is for emergency operations. Projects will resume their regular schedule on Tuesday, Sept. 6. 

Interstate 70 and Interstate 25 traffic is “basically inescapable,” said Skyler McKinley, AAA regional director of public affairs. He expects travel numbers should be similar to 2019 levels. Both Memorial Day and July Fourth were within about 5% of 2019 traveler counts, he said.

Heavier-than-normal traffic should be anticipated on I-25 along the Front Range and on I-70 west of Denver this weekend, according to CDOT. Westbound traffic on I-70 tends to be heaviest from mid-morning until late afternoon on Friday, and from 7 a.m. to mid-afternoon on Saturday. Eastbound I-70 traffic will be at its peak on Labor Day, Monday, from mid-morning to late afternoon, especially from Summit County to the Denver area, CDOT reported.

An online survey conducted by AAA across the United States in early August found that about 32% of Americans will travel for Labor Day weekend, AAA reported Aug. 29. Of those who plan to travel, the survey reported 82% plan go by automobile.

McKinley encouraged drivers to be aware they are not in traffic — they are part of the traffic. Drivers should try to remain calm and courteous and avoid road rage or aggressive driving habits, which he says are a leading cause of accidents and tend to increase during high traffic periods.

Last year, September recorded the highest number of total vehicles traveling through the Eisenhower-Johnson Memorial Tunnels in 2021, with almost 1.15 million vehicles.

Monthly totals through 2022 have been similar to 2021 according to tunnel data. Through July of this year, the monthly average number of vehicles passing through was just under 1.09 million. Over the same period in 2021, the average was just over 1.07 million.

After a spring with constantly rising gas prices, fuel costs have declined every week of the summer and are expected to be the lowest since March 3, according to a Sept. 1 report by the price-checking app Gasbuddy. At a current average $3.79 per gallon, Gasbuddy reports prices are 20% lower than they were on July 4.

AAA reports the current average price for a gallon of regular-grade gas in Colorado is just under $3.78. In Summit County the average is just under $4.23.

Gas prices and inflation impacted some travelers’ behaviors this summer, AAA reported. According to its survey, 80% said they made cutbacks to save money, with those between the ages of 18- to 34-years-old cutting back the most. Almost half of respondents said they had cut back on driving and 29% said the same about flying. 

Travelers will continue to go on excursions after Labor Day too, AAA reported. The same late summer survey also found that most respondents are planning trips this fall. According to those polled: 73% plan to take a leisure trip after Labor Day, 52% will take a road trip, 30% will fly somewhere and 7% will take a cruise.

To avoid a breakdown on a road trip, AAA recommends drivers inspect tires, batteries, belts, hoses, and fluid levels, or have vehicles inspected by a trusted mechanic. Colorado AAA expects to respond to about 6,000 calls for service this weekend, McKinley said.

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