Denver braces for ‘debate’ traffic

Dylan Stableford

Denver residents are bracing for gridlock conditions—or what qualifies as gridlock conditions in Colorado—on Wednesday night as the city hosts the first presidential debate between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney at the University of Denver.

A six-mile stretch of Interstate 25 will be closed in both directions between 5 and 10 p.m., the city says, and closed to large-vehicle traffic between 3 and 11 p.m., resulting in twice the normal traffic for commuters along a designated detour. And several "natural" cut-throughs will be closed, too.

"We recognize that motorists traveling through the area will experience some delay and inconvenience," the executive director of the Colorado Department of Transportation, Don Hunt, said in a statement. "We are working with multiple agencies on the local, state and federal level to do everything possible to keep those delays to a minimum."

The agency's website is offering maps of alternative routes for travelers, who are also encouraged to follow @ColoradoDOT and @DenPublicWorks on Twitter for updated travel information.

According to the Denver Post, traffic engineers have extended the green-traffic-light cycle to help ease the expected snarl and Denver police will have extra traffic cops on duty. Still, "the first line of defense is avoidance," the Post said.

City officials are hopeful that their experience in managing traffic during the Democratic National Convention will pay off on Wednesday. When Obama accepted the Democratic nomination at Mile High Stadium, traffic was stopped for more than four hours on I-25. "But because of good driver planning," the paper noted, "the jams didn't materialize."