The issue: Congestion on Interstate 25 is hampering commerce between Denver and Colorado Springs.
What we think: Toll lanes could provide much-needed funding to expand the interstate between Monument and Castle Rock.
Tell us what you think: Send us an email at email@example.com.
Anyone who routinely commutes to Denver knows the frustration that comes with the drive: standstill traffic, car accidents, road rage, too many cars on the road leading to commutes that take twice as long as they should.
And at long last, the state’s taking a serious look at widening Interstate 25 between Monument and Castle Rock, 17 miles that will make a difference to thousands of business people trying to get to jobs, meet with prospective clients and create closer commercial ties with the state’s capital.
It’s going to be expensive.
The Colorado Department of Transportation estimates it will cost about $350 million to add lanes to the stretch of interstate between Monument in El Paso County and Castle Rock in Douglas County. Voters agreed to allow the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority to keep millions that would otherwise go back to taxpayers to put toward the overall costs. The state had allocated $250 million for the project and CDOT is hoping for $65 million in grants from the federal government.
We’re so close to paying for the solution.
The state has another idea to come up with the money: adding toll lanes. The infusion of cash from motorists who want to use the toll lanes instead of waiting in traffic could mean the difference between expanding the interstate and being stuck in traffic for years while the state and federal government wrangle over how to pay for the project. That’s time we don’t have. Delays will only push the cost higher.
While toll roads aren’t the perfect solution — people avoiding them will use county side roads instead, creating additional wear and tear on those roads — they are the workable solution now, with a cash-strapped government hamstrung by the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, an amendment to the state constitution that keeps the government from being able to adequately plan for infrastructure needs and additional growth.
And while politicians delay and discuss, El Paso County is experiencing a record number of new residents, and Colorado is one of the most popular states for people who are attracted to our gorgeous scenery and our low unemployment rate. All those new residents mean more cars on the roads and more wear and tear on our already stressed infrastructure.
Currently, interstate highway improvements are paid for through a highway fund managed by the federal government that comes from a federal gas tax. The only way to expand the road without a toll is to raise the gas tax — and there’s no appetite for tax increases in Washington, D.C., as proven recently by the national deficit’s surpassing $21 trillion for the first time.
The view on toll roads is mixed, but there are successes in Colorado. Highway 36 from Denver to Boulder has toll lanes that have eased traffic concerns between the two cities. Another toll road, E-470 to the Denver International Airport, has exceeded expectations and kept traffic moving along I-25 as it goes through the largest city in the state.
In this case, additional lanes that are toll lanes are the solution to the problem — and the sooner the better. Our growing city, forecast to be the largest in the state by 2050, can’t wait for federal or state fiscal reforms. We must act with the tools we currently have at our disposal — and that means toll lanes.