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Holiday traffic expected to follow high-volume trends of past years

Vehicles head westbound on Interstate 70 near Frisco during Martin Luther King Jr. weekend in 2020. Typical holiday traffic volumes are expected Monday, Jan. 18, despite pandemic restrictions.
Photo by Liz Copan / Summit Daily archives

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is typically a high-traffic day for the Interstate 70 mountain corridor. Despite pandemic restrictions, such as capacity limits at ski resorts, this year is expected to follow the historic trend.

According to a report published on GoI70.com, the I-70 Mountain Corridor Coalition’s website, travelers should expect heavy traffic throughout the holiday weekend, what is typically the fifth busiest holiday travel period of the year. Based on historical data and other factors like weather, the report estimates that westbound I-70 travelers can expect moderate to heavy traffic with delays of up to 30 minutes from 6:30 a.m. through 10:30 a.m. Monday, Jan. 18. Eastbound travelers can expect heavy traffic volumes beginning as early as 11 a.m. and reaching peak delays of an hour or more between 1:30 p.m. and 4 p.m.

“Even with everything, most of the holiday weekends have compared to holiday weekends of years past,” Colorado Department of Transportation Communications Coordinator Presley Fowler said about traffic during the pandemic. “(Traffic is) a little bit lower. Christmas was lower this year than it was in the year before … but it’s still heavy traffic. We still see that westbound morning heavy traffic and then eastbound in the afternoon.”



Fowler added that along with the holiday, people should prepare for traffic due to a work zone as they pass through Idaho Springs. While there are no lane closures scheduled Monday, the construction setup could cause delays.

As light snow is forecast for Sunday night through Monday, Fowler said people should be aware that weather conditions can change quickly. Drivers should pay attention to electronic traffic signs that will be used to update travelers on road conditions and traffic, and can check CoTrip.org for updated road conditions. Motorists are encouraged to have an emergency kit in the vehicle, Fowler said, and to make sure their tire tread is in line with state traction laws.



All motorists traveling through the corridor are required to have one of the following:

  • Four-wheel drive or all-wheel drive vehicles and a tire tread depth of at least three-sixteenths of an inch
  • Tires with a mud and snow designation or snow tires and a tread depth of at least three-sixteenths of an inch
  • Chains or an AutoSock

“With any storm, big or small, our concern is just making sure people are prepared and their vehicles are prepared, as well,” Fowler said.

According to Zach Hiris, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service office in Boulder, there will be light snowfall Sunday night through Monday night in Summit County and along the I-70 mountain corridor, with wind gusts that could impact travel. Hiris said the majority of snow will fall between late Sunday night and 6 p.m. Monday, with a total snowfall of about an inch in lower elevations around Summit County and 2 inches at ski areas and other higher elevations.

“As far as travel impacts … most of the I-70 corridor from (Summit County) into the foothills will see some light snow, and with the winds, there could be a little bit of blowing and decreased visibility,” Hiris said. “Anytime there’s snow up there, traveling is difficult. So chances are we’ll see some travel impacts, but it doesn’t look particularly significant this time around.”

According to the National Weather Service’s forecast for Frisco, Sunday night will be breezy with wind gusts as high as 24 mph. On Monday, winds will be 7-9 mph with gusts as high as 15 mph. There might be more snow Monday evening, Hiris said, but it will mostly be east of the Eisenhower/Johnson Memorial Tunnels as the storm makes its way out. Hiris said Wednesday and Thursday likely will be dry, but another storm system is moving in later in the week and into the weekend that could bring more snow.


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