The great I-70 debate: Guv candidates weigh how to get fast to the mountains

Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Hickenlooper this week floated an interesting idea about how to solve weekend traffic congestion on I-70 between Denver and the mountains.

He said Colorado should look into banning large tractor-trailers during weekend rush hours, perhaps not allowing westbound truck traffic on Friday afternoons and not allowing eastbound trucks on Sunday afternoons.

It’s not going to happen, according to Colorado Department of Transportation spokesman Bob Wilson. He said Federal laws prohibit states from restricting commercial traffic in that way. He said truckers pay a large share of the taxes for the highways and “have the same rights as anyone else.”

He said the state was engaged in discussions with business owners along I-70 to try and schedule deliveries during times that will have the least impact on traffic but that doing so is completely voluntary.

GOP nominee in the governor’s race Dan Maes said he likes the idea of installing a monorail along the highway but that he wouldn’t support tax money to pay for it. He also said he likes the idea of a zipper lane or adding another lane to the highway in areas where there is room.

American Constitution Party gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo agreed that a zipper lane is an attractive idea, but said he didn’t know where the state would find $40 million to make it a reality.

“Lots of problems can be solved if you have the money. The bigger issue is how do we fund transportation?”

CDOT is looking at a number of options that include zipper lanes and additional lanes along the route. The Revised Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Study will be released Sept. 10 and will be open for public comment for 60 days. Three public hearings are scheduled: Oct. 5 in Summit County; Oct. 6 in Clear Creek County; and Oct. 7 in Eagle County.

Wilson said once the issues relating to environmental impact are vetted then it will be time to look at specific options, their costs and their possibilities for funding.

Hickenlooper said something needs to be done because it is important that Front Range residents be able to get into the mountains for recreation. He said that ability to get quickly from urban areas into the mountains is “what makes Colorado Colorado. That’s what makes us different,” he said.

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About the Author

Scot Kersgaard

Scot Kersgaard has been managing editor of a political newspaper, editor and co-owner of a ski town newspaper, executive editor of eight high-tech magazines (where he worked with current Apple CEO Tim Cook), deputy press secretary to a U.S. Senator, and an outdoors columnist at the Rocky Mountain News. He has an English degree from the University of Washington. He was awarded a fellowship to study internet journalism at the University of Maryland's Knight Center for Specialized Journalism. He was student body president in college. He spends his free time hiking and skiing.

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