CDOTs COtrip Planner travel app aims to make it easier to navigate road closures

Navigation apps are hardly novel, but the Colorado Department of Transportation says its new offering for smartphones has something that Google Maps and others often lack: Real-time road information — direct from the source — that’s particularly vital for winter mountain driving on Interstate 70 and beyond.

The free COtrip Planner app, which launched Oct. 1 in the Apple and Android app stores, adapts the same road-condition and closure information that CDOT long has provided via its website. The website also has a more user-friendly refresh, and both integrate Google’s recognizable mapping interface as their backbones, with CDOT live conditions available as overlays.

The COtrip changes were the result of a $2.1 million state contract that also included an upgrade of CDOT’s Advanced Traffic Management System. That system feeds live data to its operations centers and plays a key role in management of highway incidents.

App users can plot out driving routes and see traffic buildups, weather conditions affecting travel, construction projects and partial or full road closures — along with stretches where chain laws are in effect. A “trucker mode” shows information specialized for big-rig drivers.

The app’s “TellMe” function allows hands-free use, with the app announcing upcoming conditions and incidents along the route or in the area. The app also allows users to view live road cameras on CDOT’s network across the state.

A drawback is that live road information is available only for state and federal highways, not local roads.

Later this fall, CDOT says, winter-specific features will be added including weather alerts and a snowplow tracker. While turn-by-turn directions aren’t yet available, CDOT says that function is expected in a future update.

The COtrip app enters a field that’s been dominated for years by Colorado-specific travel apps developed by private companies that incorporate road information provided publicly by CDOT. But while some of those stay up to date, others have sputtered or been neglected, making them unreliable.

One app by a private developer is called CDOT Colorado Road Conditions and costs $2.99 on the Apple App Store. Department spokeswoman Stacia Sellers said it has no official connection to CDOT, despite the name.

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