DENVER (AP) – Colorado highway managers say that toll lanes on Interstate 70 between Denver and the mountain resorts are probably on the way.
A $3.5 billion plan under consideration would add a reversible express tollway, two or three lanes wide, stretching about 53 miles between C-470 and Silverthorne, The Denver Post reported Sunday.
The newspaper reports that officials believe toll lanes are necessary to unclog weekend traffic spilling over the high mountain passes of I-70.
“I do think it’s a new reality in Colorado now,” said Summit County Commissioner Dan Gibbs, who is also chairman of the I-70 Coalition board of directors.
“Years ago when we wanted to make meaningful changes on I-70, a lot of us thought we’d get help through large federal appropriations,” Gibbs said. “But now that has become less of a reality, and the state is now looking to local communities to partner with and come up with solutions.”
The $3.5 billion plan also calls for general-purpose lanes on I-70 to be reconstructed. To minimize right of way costs, the express lanes would be constructed in existing medians.
The express lanes would be adjusted to reflect fluctuations in the traffic flow, Gibbs said. “Eastbound from Summit County to Denver will cost X amount of money on a Sunday, while on Tuesday afternoon it could be a lot less.”
Parsons also says it will add bores at the Eisenhower-Johnson Memorial Tunnel and at the Twin Tunnels at Idaho Springs.
The Colorado Department of Transportation plans another study to review options for reducing interstate traffic. But a CDOT official tells the newspaper that any plan is likely to include tolls.
“These new partnerships are a reality, and we have to deal with that,” spokeswoman Amy Ford said.
Eagle County Commissioner Jill Ryan says the plan needs more study. But she said that dealing with the traffic snarls on I-70 is a top priority among those on the corridor.
“I think it’s important to know that CDOT and mountain communities take the congestion issues seriously and are working together to make travel to the mountains more convenient, in both the short and long term,” she told the newspaper.
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