Colorado bills would add tolls to I-70; OOIDA issues Call to Action

| 3/26/2008

Two bills in the Colorado Senate are intended to ease congestion and give the state another road funding option by adding tolls along Interstate 70 near Denver. Another effort also is intended to help pay for roadwork.

The Senate Transportation Committee is scheduled Thursday, March 27, to discuss the two bills that would authorize toll lanes to be added to I-70 between Floyd Hill and the Eisenhower Tunnel. OOIDA has issued a Call to Action for truckers in Colorado to contact lawmakers immediately. To read that Call to Action, click here.

Sen. Chris Romer, D-Denver, introduced one bill – SB209 – that would establish a congestion pricing system with tolls being assessed on weekends during peak driving hours.

Large trucks would be required to pay higher tolls. In addition, it would designate I-70 as a high-occupancy toll lane highway and authorize reversible lanes.

The second bill – SB213 – would authorize vehicles to be charged up to $5 to use the stretch of roadway. Sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Andy McElhany, R-Colorado Springs, the measure also would allow tolls to be adjusted for inflation. Revenue from the tolls would mostly be used for improvements in the corridor.

Opponents say adding tolls on such roads as I-70 amounts to double taxation. Taxpayers have already paid for the existing highway system and facilities with state and federal highway user fees, they say.

Trucking industry officials point out that businesses dependent on the industry that are located along toll roads also would be put at a significant economic disadvantage. They also contend that adding tolls would increase costs for consumers and businesses, not to mention the fact that Colorado would be a less-attractive option for companies.

Others say that adding tolls would cause diversion of traffic to other, often less safe, roads.

Supporters say adding tolls would help the state cope with weekend congestion on I-70 between the mountains and the Denver area. They also say it would ease a road-funding budget gap.

McElhany says charging people who are passing through the Eisenhower Tunnel would generate about $40 million annually. The revenue boost could be used to help finance the first phase of widening I-70 between Floyd Hill and U.S. 40, the Rocky Mountain News reported.

Eventually, tolls would pay for improvements that include boring a third hole next to the Eisenhower Tunnel.

Another effort offered by McElhany is intended to help pay for roadwork in the state without relying on tolls. The proposal would amend the Colorado Constitution to set up a dedicated funding stream for transportation.

The Senate concurrent resolution – SCR2 – would require all sales tax paid on new vehicles or vehicle parts to be deposited into the state highway fund. It would not increase tax rates.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Colorado, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor