Mar 10, 2021 - News

Denver's gridlock is down during the pandemic, but only a bit

Change in weekly Colorado traffic from 2019

Denver ranked as the 16th most-congested city in the U.S. in 2020, five spots worse than a year ago.

By the numbers: A new scorecard from traffic analytics firm INRIX found drivers lost 24 hours to congestion.

  • Yes, but: The pandemic meant drivers spent 39 fewer hours stuck in traffic compared to 2019 and drove 16% fewer miles.
  • The city's gridlock ranking worsened among the 250 metro areas in the study because others saw larger decreases.

The state of play: The congestion is contributing to a debate at the state Capitol about how to find more money to improve roads.

  • Democrats want a series of new fees. Republicans want to use existing dollars.

The big picture: The number of cars on the road remains 17% below 2019 levels, according to an Axios analysis of state traffic counts from 10 major interstates and highways.

  • Average speeds are about 10% higher.
  • Some interstates, such as I-225 north of Colfax and I-25 in Loveland, are back to normal levels.

What they're saying: The continued focus on work from home means that traffic will remain suppressed. "I don't expect it to come back any time soon," state traffic engineer San Lee told Axios.

Zoom in: Denver drivers are still traveling about 11% fewer miles compared with pre-pandemic levels, according to Iteris, a technology company that monitors traffic.

  • But vehicle volumes have picked up significantly since lockdowns were first announced last March.

Of note: Compared to other cities, miles traveled in Denver were "particularly high" during the summer months, a TrafficCarma Mobility Trends spokesman told Axios.

This story first appeared in the Axios Denver newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard.


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