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Winter weather induces difficult traffic conditions

Commuting safely in Denver’s winters

Snow and ice in colorado is increasing likelihood of traffic and accidents.
Photo: Ayden Adair · The Sentry

With winter storms and colder temperatures making an entrance into Denver’s climate, the city’s increasingly crowded roadways can prove to be more dangerous in winter storms than in warmer weather. According to Colorado Public Radio, a national survey found 20 percent of Denverites had quit their jobs due to Denver’s worsening commutes to and from work and school. The article also states that “More than a third of Denverites say their commute has gotten worse in the last five years, according to a new survey by the global staffing firm Robert Half.”

Holly Gary of CU Denver Commuter Services estimates that approximately 92 percent of undergraduate students (those not living at Campus Village) and nearly 100 percent of graduate students commute to and from campus.

This commuting problem in Denver seems to worsen when the weather gets unpleasant. According to the Colorado Department of Transportation, between 2005 and 2016 there were more than 100,000 crashes caused by winter weather conditions, such as snow and sleet, compared to 68,000 for any other crashes due to other weather conditions, like rain.

Denver’s first major winter storm of the season, just before the new year, caused major crashes that left I-25 and other Metropolitan area roads closed. Other crashes on I-70 contributed to commute delays of which CDOT frequently posts updates on their social media to ensure safe travel.

While RTD is typically a great alternative to the lengthy traffic commutes and driving in potentially troublesome weather, a lot of work still goes into the upkeep of RTD vehicles during the winter months to ensure timely commutes. RTD tries to ensure timely commutes by confirming the light rail vehicles are safe to enter (no ice present on steps and warm cars) and that there is upkeep of wires and tracks that the light rails travel along to prevent accidents or delays in commutes.

It is more difficult to prevent busing delays with winter weather. However, bus operators are required to do annual training that covers driving in winter weather conditions, and updates on bus locations can be found on RTD’s website and social media. “In my experience, mass public transportation is one of the major pillars to alleviating traffic conditions in any city, especially one as major as Denver,” Jacob Garlick, a current political science master’s student, stated.

Unfortunately, RTD isn’t a commuting option for everyone. When one can’t avoid driving in winter weather conditions, CDOT recommends checking the vehicle’s tires (perform the quarter test—if George Washington’s head is covered by the tread of the tire, the tire is safe), leaving extra room between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you, driving for conditions (don’t drive faster than you can see ahead), and having a plan ahead of time. CDOT provides services that allow commuters to view road conditions before leaving at cotrip.org, or Goi70.com for I-70 routes.

More information on safe winter driving and RTD’s services can be found at codot.gov and rtd-denver.com.

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