I-70 left-lane lollygaggers targeted; ‘zipper lanes’ bill clears committee

In the current dismal economic climate there are no big-picture transportation-funding fixes for Colorado’s crumbling system of roads and bridges, no high-speed transit solution right around the corner. Just zipper lanes and slow-moving traffic penalties for left-lane lollygaggers.

The state Senate today passed SB 196 (pdf), which dictates vehicles must travel at least 10 mph below the posted speed limit in the left lane on Interstate 70 hills with a 6-percent grade. Failure to do so or move over into the right lane will earn drivers a $19 ticket. Now the bill, sponsored by Sen. Dan Gibbs (D-Silverthorne) and Rep. Christine Scanlan (D-Dillon), moves to the House.

The bill is meant to ease congestion on I-70, the main east-west corridor between the Front Range and Western Slope, which becomes a westbound parking lot on Friday evenings and Saturday mornings as city dwellers escape to the mountains. The reverse is true on Sunday evenings.

Scanlan and Gibbs also co-sponsored SB 184 (pdf), which urges the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) to install moveable “zipper lanes” by next ski season along a 15-mile section of I-70 between Georgetown and Floyd Hill.

The moveable barriers would allow CDOT to establish three lanes of westbound traffic and just one lane of eastbound traffic during peak hours Friday and Saturday and then reverse the process for returning traffic at peak times Sunday evening.

“People from the Front Range want to enjoy the mountains and people in the mountains understand how important tourism is to their economies,” Scanlan said in a release. “The prospect of a four-hour drive ends up costing our state more than just time.”

A 2007 Denver Metro Chamber study concluded the state loses $839 million a year in tourism and business revenue due to I-70 gridlock.

CDOT is already conducting a study on the proposal, and officials said they don’t need a state law to make it happen, but lawmakers content the bill will make it easier to sell the plan to the federal government.

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