On Sunday, the Denver Post published a story that predicted “tolling will be as common as chain laws” on the heavily trafficked road between Denver and various mountain resort destinations. This was the opinion of various highway planners who are grappling with possible solutions to the traffic congestion problems on I-70.
Summit Couty Commissioner Dan Gibbs, who also serves as the chairman of the I-70 Coalition board pulled no punches, as he was quoted in the article calling tolls on the highway “a new reality.” Gibbs seemed resigned to the fact that federal funding for improvements to the road wold not be coming in any meaningful amounts, and that left planners with with the option of a public-private partnership, which would be funded through tolls.
At the center of the proposal to toll the highway is Parsons Corporation, a global engineering firm with a long track record of running toll projects for major entites such as the Port Authority of New York, The Orange County Transportation Authority, and the Florida Turnpike.
Parson’s proposal includes a public-private partnership with CDOT to create a reversible express toll road between Silverthorne and C-470, a 53-mile stretch that when complete will be able to provide additional lanes of traffic in each direction to accommodate peak traffic times. The proposal also includes new bores at the Eisenhower Tunnel and the twin tunnels near Idaho Springs. And Parsons thinks that it can deliver this by the year 2012, which is 15 years sooner than CDOT thought that it could be completed.
Highway 36 between Denver and Boulder is also in the process of becoming a toll road through a public-private partnership, with so-called managed lanes that will be free for buses and vehicles with at least three passengers, while cars with one or two passengers will pay. This has not been a popular solution for commuters who live along the US 36 corridor, as many have complained that carpooling with two people is difficult enough, but three will be nearly impossible.