The Labor Day weekend is one of the busiest of the year for mountain traffic on Interstate 70, rivaling ski traffic on the weekends of the Martin Luther King holiday and Presidents Day, but if the mountains are calling and you must go, here’s a tip: Sunday might be your best bet.
Last year, for example, westbound traffic through the Eisenhower/Johnson tunnels the day before Labor Day was just over 20,000 vehicles, as compared to more than 34,200 on Friday and nearly 30,000 on Saturday, according to CDOT. Eastbound traffic on Sunday was just over 26,000, which was considerably more than eastbound traffic on Friday and Saturday, but well below the 31,450 eastbound vehicles on Monday.
Within those numbers, there are times to go that are better than others. Bob Wilson, statewide communications manager for CDOT, said the heaviest westbound traffic of the weekend tends to occur on Friday from noon to 6 p.m. It should be heavy again on Saturday, beginning around 9 a.m. but dying down earlier than on Friday.
“Sunday tends to be our least traveled day when we have Labor Day weekends, but we can still have a significant amount of traffic,” Wilson said. “Sunday tends to be a fairly slow day going westbound, and then again westbound on Monday, it’s fairly slow. It’s eastbound traffic on Monday that people can expect potential slowdowns and backups. Traffic moves a little better now that we have the express lane in place, but it’s still quite heavy on Monday afternoon coming back into Denver. Usually around 10 to 11 o’clock is when we see the heaviest traffic beginning to head eastbound on Interstate 70.”
Heavy traffic also can be expected on U.S. 285 into South Park and on U.S. highways 36 and 34 into Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park.
“This is going to be a very big weekend for them at the park, especially as we start going into the fall,” Wilson said. “September is actually their biggest month. This is where they really start to see traffic building, beginning with Labor Day and running through all of September.”
That’s not the only way to get there, though. CDOT has inaugurated Friday/Saturday bus service to Estes Park, and this weekend it will include Labor Day. Called Bustang, the line originates at Union Station and stops at RTD’s Sheridan station on U.S. 36. In Estes Park, you can catch a free shuttle into Rocky Mountain National Park. The round-trip Bustang fare is $10.
One more suggestion: You can check out how traffic is moving on Interstate 70 by going to CDOT’s side, cotrip.org, which has traffic cameras in real time and alerts. You also can call 511 for current conditions.
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