CO 71 vs I-25
This is my first post.
We are driving from the Twin Cities to Phoenix the week after Christmas. Right now, the weather forecast on our usual route, through Kansas City and Oklahoma City is for possible snow flurries so we are thinking of going through Colorado to avoid this possibility. We'd drive I-80 to I-76 in Nebraska towards Denver. It looks like we could either take I-25 south going near Denver, Fort Collins, and Pueblo Colorado, or take Colorado 71 south to Colorado 350 and pick up I-25 in Trinidad Colorado. The CO-71 route looks very flat (and boring, which is fine with us) and according to Google maps, saves us time and miles. We usually prefer interstates, but it is tempting to find a quicker route. Does the CO-71 route seem viable?
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It's still too early to be able to predict the weather with any degree of accuracy. I'd recommend you plan on taking your usual all-Interstate route. Snow flurries are generally no problem on Interstates.
If the weather does not look good on your day of departure, then I'd look at possible alternates. Safetravelusa.com has links to each state's road conditions site.
Simple and Direct is Always a Good Choice
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Personally, I know what I'd do. That's to follow our standard advice to take the most direct all-Interstate route. And while going south does NOT mean that you'll have zero chance of seeing snow, as I view the long range forecast for the dates of your drive, the bulk of the snow seems to be concentrated in the Colorado mountains, precisely where your 'shorter' alternative is taking you. Add to that the fact that your shortcut will put you on little-traveled two lane roads on the desolate high plains and I just don't see any advantages. I'd just stick to I-35/US-400/US-54/I-40/I-17 and plan on taking at least three full days without sight-seeing stops.
One possible alternative is to use I-70/I-235 out of Kansas City to save on tolls, and if the weather co-operates and you want a little scenery at the end you can look at leaving I-40 at Holbrook AZ and taking AZ-377/AZ-277/AZ-260/AZ-87 to enter the Phoenix metro area from the northeast.
I think Buck may be mistaken - there is no I-235 around KC. Best way around is I-435 around the east back to I-35. I-70/I-335 is the toll road.
I'm not too fond of US-400/US-54 even though it cuts off quite a few miles. I would definitely not take it if there is any marginal weather. It's mostly a 2 lane road west of Pratt and is a handful in high winds. If you do take it, watch out in Goodwell OK - it's a speed trap, the limit drops from 65 to 40 and the radar gets you right at the 40 sign. They pull you over for 3 over.
I think CO-71 is a perfectly reasonable alternative - it's shorter, but you're sticking to 2 lane roads, and going through some towns, so it probably will not really save you any time. I've considered this route, but always wound up going through Denver, mostly because I've usually wanted to make a stop in Denver.
As others have mentioned, it is still a little early to be making strong judgements on which route would be best regarding the weather - forecast certainly can still change, and change significantly - and if it does look like you've got a chance of some winter weather moving in, then I'd certainly stick to the Interstates.
If you do take CO-71, I'd probably cut back to I-25 via US-24 from Limon to Colorado Springs, rather than going all the way down to Trinidad. And if you go via Denver, don't forget that E-470 is a cashless toll road, so you can expect to get a bill in the mail if you get on that road.
Thank you all! We made it to Arizona but didn't take the CO-71 route, but rather I-80 from Des Moines through Omaha and then I-76 to I-25 outside of Denver. We also took the 470E tollway around Denver - it was wonderful - light traffic, good roads, and no stops for tolls. They send a bill based on your license plate - we'll see what the toll is, but we are expecting about $15.00. The weather wasn't a factor this trip, luckily, and we really enjoyed traveling through Colorado past Santa Fe and Albuquerque. Very scenic and made good time. We stopped in North Platte Nebraska and Albuquerque for the night, so did it in 3 days driving.
Thanks for reporting back!
I'm pretty sure I've used those exact same stops on a similar trip to Arizona years ago. You are right, the toll should be just under $15 for bypassing Denver on E-470.
Well, I used (unintentionally) same 470E about six years ago from I70 to I25. I got two separate bills from two toll sensor locations in mail after few months including regular toll + processing fees. The only thing kind of bother me as it seemed like non-toll until I got on it and hit the automated toll sensors...