Recently on our social media pages we’ve been sharing communications about the I-70 Mountain Express Lane. We’ve gotten frequent comments and questions asking how the Express Lanes work. Today’s post is dedicated to answering those questions.
The I-70 Coalition works closely with CDOT’s High Performance Transportation Enterprise (HPTE). The following is from their report: The I-70 Mountain Express Lane is 12 miles long, running eastbound on the corridor, stretching from Empire Junction through the Veterans Memorial Tunnel. It opened for tolling in December 2015, and uses the inside shoulder breakdown lane as an Express Lane to provide additional capacity in the corridor during peak demand travel times. The Express Lane is only open and operational at certain times.
The majority of the $72 million project was funded by CDOT, with a $23 million shortfall in project funding filled through a commercial loan procured by HPTE. The loan is repaid through toll revenue. The Express Lane has been open for three and a half years, delivering trip reliability and improved travel speeds for drivers returning to the Denver metro from the mountains. Prior to the Express Lane, travel times on the Clear Creek County frontage road from US 40 to Idaho Springs could be exceptionally delayed, as many vehicles sought alternative routes during I-70 slowdown. Since opening the Mountain Express Lane, the local quality of life has improved as residents are now able to move more freely about their neighborhoods and business areas.
From operational year 2016-17 to 2017-18, the I-70 Mountain Express Lane saw a 16% increase in vehicle use, from 227,100 to 263,700 vehicles. Overall, almost 9% of vehicles traveling during times when the Express Lane was open, chose to pay for the Express Lane’s enhanced travel speeds. In removing these 9% of vehicles from the general purpose highway lanes, the Express Lane effectively contributed to congestion reduction and also enhanced traffic efficiency for the 91% of vehicles that remained traveling in the general purpose lanes at no additional cost.
Pricing for the Express Lane can be dynamic, though the price is typically between $6 and $8, depending on demand. Those planning to use the lane should set up an account at www.ExpressToll.com as those using the lane without an Express Toll account will pay an additional “License Plate Tolling Fee.” The Express Lanes have been well-received and well-traveled by the public, serving as one of the corridor’s most successful, recent, congestion reduction projects. Construction on the Westbound Mountain Express Lane will begin during late Spring/early Summer of this year, and it is targeted to be operational by July 2021. Watch out for future updates.
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