Republicans promoting $5 toll to widen Interstate 70 |

Republicans promoting $5 toll to widen Interstate 70

Colleen Slevin
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

DENVER ” Republican leaders are promoting a $5 toll on Interstate 70 in Colorado to pay for widening the highway.

Senate Minority Leader Andy McElhany and House Minority Leader Mike May said Tuesday they’re working on a bill to establish a toll each way between Floyd Hill on the outskirts of the metro Denver area to the Eisenhower Tunnel.

People who live in Summit, Clear Creek and Gilpin counties, which I-70 runs through, would be exempt. The toll would apply to both passenger cars and commercial trucks.

Sponsors estimate the toll would raise about $40 million a year, which could be used to borrow $1 billion to widen I-70 between Floyd Hill and U.S. 40, the exit for Winter Park ski resort.

May said he thinks having drivers who use the road pay for improvements would be more popular than imposing a tax on everyone. McElhany said he wasn’t worried whether the toll would have an impact on the trucking industry.

“I think traffic not moving and a three-hour traffic jam is much worse for business,” McElhany said.

Sen. Chris Romer, D-Denver, is also working on a proposal to designate one or all lanes of the highway as toll lanes during peak travel periods to help avoid weekend traffic jams. Cars holding three or more people wouldn’t have to pay and trucks would be charged more than cars. The draft bill doesn’t specify how much the toll would be.

Both proposals face a steep climb.

Colorado would have to get a federal waiver to establish a toll on an existing roadway. A lawmaker who represents people who live near the highway from the foothills to Summit County is also angry that the backers haven’t reached out to mountain communities and others who have been studying what do about the highway.

Sen. Dan Gibbs, D-Silverthorne, said that a coalition is due to release its recommendations in May so it’s premature to talk about expanding the highway.

“I think folks are looking for headlines and if they were trying to solve the problem they would be part of the conversation,” Gibbs said.