Study looks at possible tolls at Eisenhower Tunnel

| 8/30/2004

In the future, truckers traveling through the Eisenhower Tunnel on I-70 could pay for the privilege of doing so.

However, a state official said that if any tolls are added – and that’s a big if, she said – they would be more than a decade off.

The Colorado Tolling Enterprise Board, part of the state’s Department of Transportation, recently announced the results of a feasibility analysis regarding the possible use of tolls on a number of Colorado highways.

The study looked at 12 areas in the state and examined which ones could feasibly work as toll projects. Among those where tolls might work, the analysis said, was the tunnel, which sits along the coast-to-coast interstate west of Denver.

Peggy Catlin, deputy executive director of CDOT and acting director of the Colorado Tolling Enterprise, stressed that the project was only a feasibility study. Before it could move forward, any tolling plan would have to pass through a number of potential roadblocks, including detailed environmental, traffic and financial analyses.

“There haven’t been any policy decisions made,” Catlin said. “It was not a proposal to toll; it was just a feasibility study.”

The study considered a toll of $3 per vehicle in each direction in the tunnel during peak hours – enough to potentially pay for improvements. However, the study is so preliminary that it has not even reached a point where it would look at different tolls for trucks or cars, Catlin said.

In addition, she said, tolling is only one of several financing options being looked at to pay for road projects linked to the feasibility analysis.

And if the state does decide to add tolls, Catlin said, any actual tolls would be 10 to 15 years in the future

In a statement, CDOT said that the tolls could be used in a number of corridors, and could pay for up to 90 percent of the cost of improvements.

The roadwork could include express toll lanes on a number of interstates and an additional two-lane tunnel at the Eisenhower site. The feasibility analysis looked at possible improvements on I-25, I-70, U.S. 36, I-225, I-270 and Colorado 470.

“The results of this initial study are encouraging but we’re still in an infancy stage,” Catlin said. “This study is in no way a plan or a guarantee. We’re simply going through the process of analyzing options and finding funding alternatives so Colorado doesn’t have the spend the next 25 years stuck in traffic congestion.”

The Colorado Tolling Enterprise was created in 2002 to finance, construct, operate, regulate and maintain a system of tolling highways in Colorado.

--by Mark H. Reddig, associate editor