Increase travel time reliability in two corridors
Why is this important to Colorado?
Efficient and reliable travel is essential to a thriving economy. Each year, Colorado’s highway system handles more than 28 billion vehicle miles of travel each year. The Colorado State Demographer’s Office estimated a population of 5.46 million people in the state as of 2015, which was approximately a 1.9% increase from 2014. Colorado’s population is expected to grow by 47% to 7.8 million by 2040, which will result in huge increases in vehicle miles traveled.
Moreover, travel in Colorado can be unpredictable due to storms, crashes, and other events that throw an already hectic peak travel period into total chaos. Focusing on improving travel time reliability on our major routes is critical both for urban centers and rural communities because these corridors enable timely movement of travelers and freight, drawing tourism and interstate commerce. For example, for each minute that a freeway travel lane is blocked during peak times due to an incident, the corridor will take 4 minutes to recover to normal operations, after the lane is cleared. The management of traffic operations is essential to travel reliability and, therefore, the state’s overall economic health and quality of life.
These corridors are also critical for freight movement. Field crops, petroleum products, and missile/space industry equipment account for $13 billion of the exported freight using Colorado’s highways. I-70 Mountain Corridor moves 1.3 million trucks annually and accounts for 3.5% of all freight value in the State at $7.2 billion and 4.7% of the tonnage at 14.3 million tons. The top imported commodity to the I-70 Mountain Corridor counties is petroleum refining products, which means that the literal fuel driving their local economies depends on the reliability of the corridor.
How do we measure success?
“Travel Time” is a metrics detailing the average time in minutes to travel from point A to point B as the destination. It takes into account factors that affect congestion and delay, like crashes and weather events, so you can accurately plan enough time to actually arrive as scheduled. We focus on I-25 and I-70 because these interstates provide the backbone of the entire transportation network. Two corridors in Colorado that are critical routes and are known for high traffic volumes, crashes, storms and other unforeseen event are I-25 Metro (between C-470 in the south and E-470 in the north) and I-70 Mountain (between Vail and Golden). The data displays the difference between free flow travel times compared to actual travel times in each month.
Given population growth forecasts, the Travel Time is expected to continue to increase considerably on Colorado highways over the next decade. We measure success by curtailing the expected high growth in Travel Time.
I-70 Eastbound from Vail to C-470
I-70 Westbound from C-470 to Vail
I-25 Northbound from C-470 to E470
I-25 Southbound from E-470 to C-470
What actions are we taking?
The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) is delivering projects and operational strategies aimed at making travel time for Coloradans more reliable. Coloradans want reliable travel time for commuting, recreation, getting to the airport, or even just making their child’s ballgame on time. The demands on our highways are projected to increase dramatically and reduce reliability and increase travel times. We are working to mitigate this projection through the following efforts:
- Targeting corridor improvements, such as bottleneck reduction
- Improving Traffic Incidence Clearing Time by training emergency responders
- Utilizing new technology to manage traffic flow with intelligent ramp meters from University South to the Lincoln Interchange on I-25
- Providing real-time weather and roadway information to travelers with CO Trips and the SMART 70 projects
- Piloting strategies that support and leverage self-driving vehicle technologies to improve safety
These strategies to improve Travel Time are effective and should be incorporated into the Department’s budget. For example, CDOT invested over 300 million dollars in the expansion of the Veterans Memorial Tunnel and the I-70 Mountain Express Lane and 55 million dollars in the I-25 North Express Lane between 120th and US 36. CDOT will also invest tens of millions of dollars in coming years in other operations, safety, and technology projects in these two corridors. However, with 5.4 million residents, the funding for needed, economically critical transportation projects is unable to keep up with the increases in both construction costs and the increases in travel demand. The 18.4 cent federal gas tax which is critical to fund these improvements has not be raised since 1993. The average spending of transportation dollars in Colorado in 1991 was $125.70. In 2015, the ratio has been reduced to $69.94 dollars per person.