Colorado bill would allow tolls on I-70; OOIDA issues Call to Action

| 4/18/2008

A bill awaiting consideration on the floor of the Colorado Senate is intended to ease congestion and give the state another road funding option by adding tolls along Interstate 70 near Denver.

The Senate Appropriations Committee voted 7-3 to advance the bill to the full Senate. It would allow toll lanes to be added to I-70 between Floyd Hill and the Eisenhower Tunnel. Tuesday, April 15, OOIDA issued a Call to Action for truckers in Colorado to contact their senators regarding the legislation. To read that Call to Action, click here.

Even if the bill is signed into law, before tolls could be added the Colorado Department of Transportation would need to seek a federal waiver to allow tolls to be collected on an existing interstate.

Sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Andy McElhany, R-Colorado Springs, the measure – SB213 – would allow vehicles to be charged up to $5 to use the stretch of I-70. Exceptions would be made for vehicles registered in Summit, Gilpin and Clear Creek counties.

It also would allow tolls to be adjusted for inflation. Revenue from the tolls would mostly be used for improvements in the 43-mile stretch of road east of the tunnel.

Before advancing the bill, the committee amended the bill in two places to remove mandates that the state authorize tolling. The changes would permit the state to implement tolls.

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 congestion on I-70 between the mountains and the Denver area. They also say it would generate about $1 billion to ease a road-funding budget gap.

While McElhany’s bill awaits further consideration on the Senate floor, an alternative tolling bill recently was killed in committee. Sponsored by Sen. Chris Romer, D-Denver, the measure – SB209 – sought to establish a congestion pricing system along the same stretch of I-70 with tolls being assessed on weekends during peak driving hours.

Large trucks would have been required to pay higher tolls. In addition, it designated I-70 as a high-occupancy toll lane highway and authorized reversible lanes.

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

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor