Plans for plains toll road rolling along |

Plans for plains toll road rolling along

DENVER ” Plans for a 210-mile toll road running from Wellington in the north to Pueblo is gaining momentum in the Legislature as lawmakers look for ways to build highways without a huge cost to taxpayers.

Rep. Jim Sullivan, R-Larkspur, said investors are lined up to cover the $2 billion cost. All they need now is to change state law dating from the 1800s that authorized counties to set their own toll rates. That law was passed to allow a toll road to be built on Pike’s Peak.

Sullivan said the toll road will allow trucks to avoid busy Interstate 25, located 25 miles to the west, and offer an 85 mph speed limit for an estimated $10 toll. He said the alternate route also will improve safety, relieving congestion on the busy interstate and reducing accidents that can snarl traffic for hours.

“This really is a safety issue. There have been innumerable traffic accidents along the I-25 corridor,” said Sullivan.

Gov. Bill Owens supports toll roads as a way for the state to continue to build highways at a time when lawmakers have been forced to cut funding because of the economic decline over the past three years.

His spokesman, Dan Hopkins, said E-470, which provides highway access around the eastern Denver suburbs, has been very successful and the eastern plains highway also could be a good option for drivers willing to pay for the convenience.

“They can build toll roads even when state funding is not available,” Hopkins said.

Sen. Mark Hillman, R-Burlington, said his only concern about the measure (House Bill 1030) is to make sure farmers are compensated for giving up their land. The bill passed the House Transportation Committee and is scheduled to be heard by the full House this week.

Ray Christensen, executive vice president of the Colorado Farm Bureau, said farmers and ranchers need assurance they will still have access to their property and a way around the ribbons of highway that will be built. But they also recognize the need for better roads.

“We need good farm-to-market highways. We also know the congestion,” Christensen said.

Other items on the agenda this week include:

” A hearing Monday on a bill to create a 25-member interbasin compact committee, similar to the multistate Colorado River Compact, to promote equitable use of the state’s water supplies (House Bill 1177 by Rep. Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction).

” A Senate committee will hear testimony Monday on a measure (Senate Bill 77) which would let local governments ” not the state ” decide whether liquor could be sold from noon until 8 p.m. on Sundays.

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