Summit reps frown on Interstate 70 tolls
Ryan Summerlin March 13, 2008
SUMMIT COUNTY Weeks after his initial Interstate 70 toll proposal, Denver Senator Chris Romer is at it again. The latest proposed bill, which will be introduced to the Senate later this month, would turn I-70 between Floyd Hill and the Eisenhower Tunnel into an HOV/toll road on Sundays throughout the year and during the peak weekend ski traffic hours during the winter. While the proposed bill does offer one solution to the traffic problem, local elected officials are not whole-heartedly in support of a bill that doesnt take local reactions into consideration. To base a bill off the opinions of 88 people on an online survey is very concerning, said Sen. Dan Gibbs. To move a bill forward without considering the effected communities in the mountains could have a negative impact.As one who commutes on the I-70 corridor regularly, Gibbs feels that those who live in the mountains should have a voice when it comes time to move forward with traffic solution legislation, and State Representative Christine Scanlan shares his sentiments.While I appreciate innovative thinking, I think its important to consider the fact that the citizen putting their opinions on the online forum dont necessarily live or work along the I-70 corridor and arent as effected by the changes that could be made, said Rep. Scanlan.Although the wiki-bill is a fun way to engage people in public policy I am more in support of the work being done by the I-70 Coalition, and I think they deserve to be heard, Scanlan added. Traffic to and from the mountains continues to increase annually and, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation, travel along the I-70 mountain corridor is projected to increase by more than 10 million trips at the Eisenhower Tunnel over the next 20 years. According to the bill, vehicles with fewer than three occupants would be charged a toll, thus encouraging more people to carpool and avoid driving the I-70 corridor during peak traffic times. In addition to creating a new HOV lane, the bill proposes reversing a traffic lane during peak periods to accommodate more traffic and would require those drivers that do chose to commute during the peak times to first register their trip online at a Web site that would monitor traffic flow. Before drafting the bill Romer created an open online forum where citizen had the opportunity to weigh in on what he refers to as the first Wikipedia-style legislation. Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia edited collaboratively by the public. According to the Rocky Mountain News, Romer hopes the pilot program enacted by his bill would cut traffic by 10 to 15 percent, maintaining speeds of at least 30 mph during rush hour. The main goal of the I-70 Coalition is to establish a transportation infrastructure through the northern and central mountain communities that is efficient, safe and environmentally sounds. The I-70 Coalition includes over 30 municipalities including Summit County and works closely with the Colorado Department of Transportation. This proposal is putting the cart before the horse which is concerning not just from a mountain perspective but from a statewide perspective as well, Gibbs said. Those interested in reading more suggestions related to Romers new proposal can log on to groups.google.com/group/fixI70now. Ashley Dickson can be reached at (970) 668-4629, or at email@example.com.