Put your money on future tolls | SummitDaily.com

Put your money on future tolls

It’s not likely tolling would be practical on Highway 9, but it sure looks to be the future of how Colorado expands highway capacity.

Tom Norton, the executive director of the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), told county leaders Thursday the nine miles of Highway 9 between Frisco and Breckenridge probably would not make the cut for tolling.

Tolling looms as a way to pay for expanded highway capacity in Colorado. It cannot be put on existing stretches of pavement, even if they are rebuilt. It could be put on new pavement in the same right of way.

Norton said a study on tolling would soon make the first cut of roadways where tolling could work. That should take Highway 9 out of the mix.

That would be good new for those of us who hate the thought of tolling to the extent found Back East but bad news for accelerating the four-laning of Highway 9 in any kind of speedy fashion.

Norton and our regional Transportation Commission member Doug Aden painted a bleak picture of highway funding through 2008 when their CDOT economists expect the economy to fully recover.

Until then, they said CDOT will be $250 million a year short on what it thinks would be ideal funding for the work at hand. That adds up to $1 billion.

Colorado’s crashing state budget cost CDOT its general fund infusion, leaving it mostly with its state and federal gasoline tax dollars.

“Current revenues are not keeping pace with infrastructure needs or inflation,” Norton told a meeting of county officials at the Summit Leadership Forum.

Which brings back the toll road option. It may not help – or hurt – on Highway 9, but it most certainly will rise to the top of ways to pay for Interstate 70 improvements.

For all of the hand-wringing about how to break up interstate congestion, a money shortage will keep improvements minimal – at least under current financial scenarios.

Tolling will be a certainty.

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