The Labor Day weekend typically marks the end of the summer travel season, and that's not just symbolic in 2020. The current forecast in Denver for this year's back-to-work date, Tuesday, September 8, calls for a fifty-degree temperature drop, a rain-snow mix and a high of forty degrees.
Another tradition: nightmare traffic, especially for those heading into the mountains to cool off for a few days before the real cool-off comes. And if you thought lighter-than-usual volume for metro Denver commutes owing to the pandemic would translate to recreational driving, think again. The Colorado Department of Transportation notes that "the I-70 Mountain Corridor has returned to pre-COVID-19 levels and is exceeding last year’s traffic volumes during some high travel periods."
That's not the only place where travelers can expect headaches.
CDOT is trying to minimize Labor Day slowdowns related to roadwork, suspending all lane closures on construction projects statewide beginning at noon today, September 4, through September 8. But what's described as "heavier-than-normal" traffic is anticipated on Interstate 70 west and Interstate 25 along the urban corridor throughout the weekend, with eastbound I-70 lock-ups expected to peak mid-morning to late afternoon on Monday, September 7.
What should drivers expect when they hit the Eisenhower tunnel? These are CDOT's stats from Labor Day 2019.
Additional challenges include potential I-70 shutdowns through Glenwood Canyon owing to the Grizzly Creek fire, whose burn areas have "increased the potential for debris flow, mudslides and rockfall, resulting in possible safety closures between Glenwood Springs (Exit 116) and Dotsero (Exit 133)," the department warns. "When driving in the canyon, motorists should prepare for additional travel time due to reduced speeds and be aware that stopping in the canyon is prohibited. Rest areas and the bike path remain closed for public safety."
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Another wild card is the Four Corners Motorcycle Rally, which is expected to attract thousands of bikers to southwest Colorado. According to CDOT, "Motorcyclists should be diligent following the laws of the road, including obeying speed limits and wearing protective gear. All other vehicle drivers are advised to keep an eye out for motorcycles, especially in blind spots."
And there's more. Here are CDOT's latest travel alerts for I-70, I-25 and statewide. (We've included items about construction, for those who'll be driving in the areas after Labor Day weekend.)
ROAD RESTRICTION 70 W
I-70 Westbound/Eastbound Glenwood Springs to Dotsero (Glenwood Canyon) (Milemarker 116-133)
No loads over 12' wide, twenty-four hours a day, 7 days a week until October 2020.
ROAD WORK 70 W
I-70 Westbound/Eastbound Glenwood Springs (Milemarker 117.5-125.9)
I-70 Eastbound and Westbound in Glenwood Canyon. Head-to-head traffic between mile post (MP) 117.6 and MP 125.9. Eastbound and Westbound will have one lane in each direction. Plan for delays.
ROAD WORK 70 E
I-70 Eastbound Eisenhower Tunnel (Milemarker 213-215)
Alternating traffic overnight in Westbound Tunnel for paving from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Tuesday through Friday. 12 foot width restriction. Expect delays.
GENERAL PURPOSE 70 W
I-70 Westbound / Eastbound Dotsero to C-470 (Milemarker 133-259)
From Sept. 1 through May 31, all commercial vehicles traveling on I-70 between the Dotsero exit (MM 133) and the Morrison exit (MM 259) must carry sufficient chains to be in compliance with the Colorado chain law.
ROAD WORK 25 N
I-25 Northbound Butte Creek 6 miles north of Walsenburg (Milemarker 58.08-59.01)
Various lane closures in area, slower speed advised. Watch for crews.
GENERAL PURPOSE 25 S
I-25 Southbound/Northbound REST AREA PUEBLO (Milemarker 111-114)
Rest Area North Bound Exit 115 & South Bound Exit 111 CLOSED
ROAD CLOSED 14 E
CO 14 Eastbound/Westbound Walden to Rustic Walden-Kelly Flats (east of Rustic) (Milemarker 36-97)
Closed due to a nearby wildfire. No est. reopen time.
Alternate Route Information: US 287/I-80 in Wyoming/Wyoming Hwy 230/CO Hwy 127 & 125.
ROAD WORK 24 E
US 24 Eastbound Falcon Highway to Meridian Road (Milemarker 319.64-320.09)
24/7 shoulder closure on eastbound US 24 to complete removal and erosion control work, extend the existing concrete box culvert, and place embankment in connection with the US 24 and Meridian Road Improvements Project.
ROAD WORK 50 W
US 50 Westbound Pueblo Blvd to Purcell (Milemarker 312-307.2)
Right lane closed with speeds reduced to 55 mph. Use caution, watch for crews.
CLOSED 50 W
US 50 Westbound/Eastbound US-5O FOWLER -MANZANOLA (Milemarker 351-359)
Full closure for surface treatment, detours in place, expect an extra 17 minutes to travel times.
ROAD WORK 160 W
US 160 Westbound Wolf Creek (Milemarker 170-170)
Road work expect delays.
ROAD WORK 67 S
CO 67 Southbound North of Cripple Creek (Milemarker 54-58)
Shoulder work. Use caution. Watch for crews.
ROAD WORK 69 S
CO 69 Southbound / Northbound Westcliffe (Milemarker 58.7-71.58)
There will be single lane closures with alternating traffic directed by automated signals, Width restrictions of 10 feet will be in place until November.
ROAD WORK 115 S
CO 115 Southbound/Northbound Near Florence (Milemarker 6)
Alternating traffic through work zone. Use caution. Watch for crews.
CLOSED FOR THE SEASON 5 S
CO 5 Southbound/Northbound Mount Evans Highway (Milemarker 0-15)
Mt. Evans Highway is closed. The road will not open to motorized vehicles for the 2020 season due to impacts from COVID-19.
ROAD OPEN TO TRAFFIC 34 W
US 34 Westbound/Eastbound Trail Ridge Rd (Milemarker 26-51)
Trail Ridge Road is open for the season with restrictions. Info: 970-586-1222
ROAD OPEN TO TRAFFIC 82 W
CO 82 Westbound / Eastbound Independence Pass (Milemarker 48-68)
Open. Oversized and overweight vehicles are strictly prohibited from using Independence Pass at any time due to narrow and winding roads and steep inclines. Absolutely no vehicles over 35 feet in length (this includes a vehicle and trailer that, together, exceed 35 feet) may use the Pass. These pass restrictions lie between MP 47.2 (Aspen side) and MP 84.2 (Leadville/Twin Lakes side, about one mile west of the junction with US 24).
ROAD OPEN TO TRAFFIC
FR209, 306 Westbound/Eastbound FR 209, 306 Cottonwood Pass(West Side) (Milemarker 0-13)
Cottonwood Pass OPEN for the season.
ROAD OPEN TO TRAFFIC
GCR 12 Westbound / Eastbound GCR 12 Kebler Pass (Milemarker 0-31)
Open for the Season.
State Wide Fire ban
Statewide fire ban in place, No open fires.
For additional information, visit cotrip.org. And be careful out there.