Record traffic through tunnel; visitors flock to Summit
summit daily news
SUMMIT COUNTY – A whopping 47,524 vehicles passed through Eisenhower Tunnel on Friday – a top-5 record – as a plenitude of visitors made Summit County their Independence Day destination. And some local businesses are pulling in higher revenues than last year’s holiday weekend.
Having July 4 on a Saturday may have made it easier for folks to get up to the mountains this year, said Mike Murray, public information officer with Colorado Department of Transportation.
“People are eager to just get out of Dodge and just forget all the things going on with the economy,” he said, adding that there were certainly other factors involved.
Folks donning Old Glory on hats and T-shirts wandered sunny Frisco Main Street early Saturday afternoon, where the aromas of funnel cakes and sizzling sausages mingled with fresh mountain air. People threw candy from a pontoon boat as the annual parade flowed through the sea of spectators.
In Breckenridge, the turnout was comparable to a recession-free year.
“The parade was insanely packed,” said Eric Mamula, Breckenridge Councilman and owner of restaurants Downstairs at Eric’s and Modis.
He said business Friday and Saturday has been excellent – with Modis serving more meals than last year.
“We’re actually up right now,” Mamula said Saturday afternoon, adding that Downstairs at Eric’s is on par with most years.
And sketchy weather didn’t deter too many holiday plans.
“A lot of people are walking around town, even with the rain showers today,” he said. “It’s a really nice Fourth of July so far.”
Jane Esser, marketing director for Outlets at Silverthorne, said major retailers have lowered their prices and had a fantastic week for traffic levels as well as revenue.
“Things are a better value now than they’ve ever been, and I think people are recognizing that,” she said.
She said Thursday and Friday were record-breakers in terms of foot traffic, and keeping stores open until midnight Friday helped to further attract business.
While the first part of 2009 showed lower spending at the outlets, the numbers this week have been great.
“Retailers yesterday were making last year’s numbers as early as 4 (p.m.),” Esser said Saturday.
She said this year’s lower gas prices may have contributed to the large amount of visitors from within Colorado.
Tim West, supervisor at Main Street Outlet in Breckenridge, said that though the number of visitors seemed “pretty much the same” as last year, they didn’t appear to be spending as much.
“There are plenty of people in town,” he said, adding that there was good foot-traffic through the store. “But dollar-wise, in terms of how many people are actually buying, it’s probably lower than (the) previous (year).”
Friday’s tunnel traffic included 29,920 westbound and 17,608 eastbound vehicles. As number five in CDOT’s top-10 calculations, the traffic was just above July 3 in 2003, when 47,255 vehicles passed through the tunnel.
The highest tunnel traffic number was recorded Jan. 2 when 50,422 vehicles passed through. The top-10 volume records range down to 45,981.
Robert Allen can be contacted at (970) 668-4628 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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