It’s funny to think that as drivers along US 36 spend yet another year waiting through construction delays, they may come to think of this year as “the good ol’ days.”
US 36, or as some call it, the Boulder Turnpike, will soon be fully expanded and will also contain new express toll lanes for drivers to use if they wish to not wait in long traffic jams.
These express toll lanes have been used on I-25 in the Denver metro area with great success over many years. The lanes work well because you can pay a fee to use them if you are simply in a hurry.
Some believe that since people who look to use an express toll lane are in a hurry, they can afford any toll that is charged to them. In fact, some have nicknamed these “Lexus Lanes.”
As a capitalist methodology, I do not have a problem with the concept of being able to pay to use a faster lane and charging more for that right. I get it and it’s a good idea.
However, for our friends in Boulder, they are getting a much worse deal than anyone traveling I-25.
US 36 is one of the only decent ways to travel from Boulder to Denver. And seemingly knowing that drivers have little to no choice in the matter, the private company who will run and maintain the road is taking full advantage of the situation.
If drivers do not have a pre-purchased pass and have the temerity to want to use the express toll lanes during peak hours, they will likely pay nearly $14.
If you are in the same position on I-25, you will pay $7.
That’s right, getting out of Boulder is twice as valuable than getting through Denver.
While the decision regarding the toll rates on US 36 has yet to be finalized, the fact that they are this public at this stage shows that the rates are close to final.
I’m surprised that Boulderites are not up in arms over the obvious way they are being abused by this system. I understand that a private firm can do essentially what they want and if people will pay it, why not charge as much as possible.
But beyond the basic economic lesson here, we also need to examine how a major city in Colorado is being treated by civic planning policies in the metro area.
A light rail plan to Boulder has been replaced by a bus system, which even though has its fans, was still considered a Plan B. And US 36 has been under construction for years and once it is finished, will be home to an express toll lane that is twice as expensive as I-25.
With so much growth along this corridor, is this really the way transportation issues should be handled? How long will it take companies to build corporate campuses elsewhere in the area to avoid inconvenient and expensive transportation issues?
At the end of the day, it’s not about a $14 express toll charge; it’s about how the state of Colorado treats one of its most important highways connected to one of its most important cities.
If you do not use US 36 and do not see this as a problem, how long do you think it will take the state to do something like this on a road you use in your commute if it’s willing to this to Boulder?
This isn’t just about Boulder, but it is about time someone gets angry.
About The Blogger
– Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Dezzutti is also the host and producer of the Emmy award winning “Colorado Inside Out” on Colorado Public Television.