Tolled Interstate 70 express lane getting ‘steady’ use
About the express lane:
What is it: The Colorado Department of Transportation has turned a stretch of shoulder space into a tolled express lane on a high-traffic area of the interstate.
Where is it: The 13-mile express lane goes from Empire to Idaho Springs on eastbound Interstate 70.
When is it open: For safety reasons, the Federal Highway Administration allows CDOT to open the lane about 70 days per year, mainly Saturdays and Sundays.
Where to enter: Drivers are encouraged to enter the express lane where the dotted white lines are, not the solid lines.
What does it cost: The express lane toll will vary from $3-$30, depending on the volume of traffic. The flux in price helps ensure the lane serves its purpose of managing traffic.
How to pay: Cameras will photograph your license plate and you will be charged via mail, or you can use the state’s E-470 electronic pass. CDOT recommends getting the pass as there is an additional fee that goes with the manual processing of license plates.
More information: CDOT has a free mobile application for travelers called CDOT Mobile. Also, CoTrip.org has updated information.
VAIL — The new tolled express lane on eastbound Interstate 70 awaits drivers heading from the high country to Denver looking to save time on their commute.
The Colorado Department of Transportation opened the 13-mile stretch on Dec. 12. CDOT turned the shoulder of that high-traffic area into an express lane that is open mainly on Saturdays and Sundays.
“It’s been getting steady use,” said Amy Ford, spokesperson for CDOT. “All lanes are moving smoothly.”
According to Ford, about 400 cars used the express lane on Saturday, Dec. 26, and about 800 opted to pay the fee and save time on Sunday, Dec. 27.
So far, the cost to use the lane has been $3. The cost will fluctuate between $3 and $30 throughout the winter season to ensure the lane serves its purpose. Ford said the price has remained at the low-end of the spectrum due to manageable traffic volume, which will increase into the ski season.
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With the lesser volume of cars, CDOT has been able to test its protocols with success, such as how to handle accidents when the express lane is open, Ford said. Since the express lane is really the shoulder converted into a lane, there is no area to move accidents to when it is in use.
On one occasion, a car stalled out in the express lane. CDOT turned off the tolling, got the car cleared out and then turned it back on. Fees were waived for those drivers that had to exit the toll lane into the normal two lanes of traffic.
Then, there was an accident in the general purpose lane. Emergency responders moved traffic to the toll lane to bypass the accident, and there were no fees charged during that time.
“How we planned on responding to these accidents worked,” Ford said. “It’s fortunate to test it with a little lesser volume than we’ll have later in the winter.”
CDOT reminds drivers:
• The express lane is not open every day for safety purposes. It is not a general purpose lane, and a deal with the Federal Highway Administration allows CDOT to use the converted shoulder as a lane only on certain days, mainly Saturdays and Sundays.
• Don’t get in the express lane when it’s not open. Signage is clear along the way showing if it is open or not. Driving in the lane when it’s closed is the equivalent of driving on a shoulder, which it is, and enforcement will be looking for violators and giving tickets.
• Get in the express lane and stay in it. It’s dangerous, as well as a moving violation, to cross the solid white lines separating it from the two general purpose lanes. Enter and exit the lane where the dotted white lines are.
‘HAVE TO GET TO AIRPORT’
Drivers heading to Denver will experience the express lane Saturday and Sunday, some for the first time.
Kimberly and Michael Greenfeld are in town from Los Angeles for the new year. They rented a car in Denver and drove out on Tuesday with no issues, they said. Driving back, the express lane will be a new option for them.
“I had heard a little bit about it, but I didn’t know exactly what it was,” Kimberly Greenfeld said. “If there’s a lot of traffic, we’ll definitely use it. We have to get to the airport.”
Reporter Ross Leonhart can be reached at 970-748-2915 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Instagram at colorado_livin_on_the_hill.