Editorial: Hey Denver – stow it on I-70!
Vail Daily Editorial Board
Vail, CO Colorado
OK, enough from Front Range legislators popping out of nowhere to introduce ideas about how to “fix” I-70 through the mountains. First we had Sen. Chris Romer (D-Denver) emerge with a scheme to impose a toll at the tunnel during peak travel times. Romer didn’t bother to ask anyone up here what they thought, nor did he consult with anyone at the I-70 Coalition, which has been meeting for years to weigh solutions and is planning to release recommendations in May.
Next up was the Republicans, Senate Minority Leader Andy McElhany and House Minority Leader Mike May. Their idea is to put in a toll between Floyd Hill and the tunnel and use the money to one day widen the highway.
Funny, we don’t recall High Country legislator weighing in on the riotously expensive T-Rex project on I-25. And we’re not sure where the political gall comes from these lawmakers who feel they can tip the scales without asking around a little first. But we do know a couple of things:
– Widening I-70 is not a realistic solution once you look at how much of Clear Creek County would be sacrificed in the project, how much it would cost and how long it would take – disrupting dollars flowing to the resort communities the whole time. Finally, there’s no guarantee that widening will accomplish anything once Colorado’s brisk population growth is taken into account.
– A toll is a “stick” in the “demand management” toolbox. We need more carrots to get skiers and others on I-70 to shift their presence to off-peak hours. Some are already in place, but much more can be done working with the chambers, the resorts, the I-70 Coalition and other business and civic partners. We need to be smart and strategic about this, not just leap to tolls and asphalt.
– People trying to use I-70 to get to Vail and other resorts desperately need more and better information. The technology for this exists today and the costs are a pittance compared to more lanes. The Colorado Department of Transportation can do a lot more with its Web site, its traffic cameras, message boards and other electronic media. It can get people signed up to receive e-mail blasts when the pass closes.
And yes, maybe some day a toll could be part of this mix. But that decision needs to be made in conjunction with other components to an overall I-70 management program that’s already in the works through the I-70 Coalition and CDOT. Random politicians throwing spaghetti at this complicated wall only muddies the waters unnecessarily.