Constant construction, population growth and accidents make for tough commutes
Traffic in Colorado has become a toxic topic of conversation for commuters over the past decade. With a population increase of 7.5 percent since 2010, in 2017 Colorado was the nation’s second-fastest growing state (behind North Dakota) and many commuters have noticed an increase in the time they spend driving to work.
“I’ve had the same job for 12 years and lived in the same house for 15 years,” said Lakewood resident Mark Barela who commutes from his residence near Hampden and Kipling to the Denver Tech Center. “Unfortunately there aren’t any major highways that take me where I need to go, so I’ve relied on Hampden for my commute. Over the years it’s gone from about 20 to 25 minutes to 35 to 40 minutes on the way there and 45 minutes to an hour home.”
Though his commute has nearly doubled, Barela has maintained his sense of humor.
“I kind of wish my salary had doubled over that span as well,” he laughed. “I’d probably be able to move closer to work.”
Barela isn’t alone with his long commute time. According to a study from Zippia, a San Francisco-based career information website, anywhere from 30 to 45 percent of Metro Denver’s commuters report having a commute of 30 minutes or longer to work. The highest percentage belongs to commuters in Aurora, Thornton and Northglenn.
Part of that commute finds a culprit in infrastructure.
“I’m not sure Colorado was ready for the boom,” said Nick Evans, 46, of Aurora whose commute from his home near Buckley Air Force Base to the Denver Tech Center has increased by “about 10 minutes” since 2010. “When I moved here in 2008 I was told that Colorado has four seasons, fall, winter, spring and cone. For a while it seemed like a funny joke. Now it’s a cruel reality.”
Indeed the “cone zones” in Colorado are a consistent eyesore throughout the state and with expansion projects for C-470 and I-70 underway or in preparation, those eyesores aren’t going anywhere.
Accidents are another issue Coloradoans run into on their daily commute. According to data compiled through the Denver Police Department one of the area with the highest number of accidents between January 1 2015 and May 31 2016 was the intersection at MLK Jr. Blvd. and Quebec St.
The intersection has a lot of the ingredients for accidents. It merges traffic from those exiting I-70 and heading south on Quebec with those who were heading south on Quebec. Additionally, the lanes change from three to two as one of them because a right-turn only lane causing drivers to attempt to get into one of the non-turning lanes within a few hundred feet of the merge point.
“What got me was the right-turn only lane,” said Amanda Hill, 27, of Stapleton who was involved in a fender-bender at the intersection in 2014. “I made the mistake of trying to swerve into the lane next to mine and traffic suddenly stopped. I didn’t stop in time to avoid it.”
Hill’s story is not uncommon for the intersection, which saw a total of 37 accidents from 2015 to May 2016. The intersection at Quebec Street and Smith Rd has experienced similar problems though for different reasons.
“That’s the area where Quebec divides after you get off of I-70,” Hill said. “If you’re trying to go to the hotels or to the [Martin Luther King Jr.] Park you want to go right, but if you’re trying to go south toward MLK you need to go straight. I don’t think GPS gives clear enough directions there so a lot of people end up swerving one way or the other at the last minute and it creates a lot of problems.”