Top Price for New I-70 Toll Lane Coming Soon: $40

Last month, we previewed a new Peak Period Shoulder Lane — shorthanded as PPSL — that's expected to be open along a thirteen-mile stretch of Interstate 70 from Floyd Hill to Empire by year's end.

At the time, cost for use of the lane was reported to range from $3 to $30.


Now, however, the pricing for the PPSL has been approved by the High Performance Transportation Enterprise, a state agency.

And while the fees the agency okayed are technically the same as those noted previously, the cost for consumers will be even higher.

A surcharge on the fees raises the top cost to $40.

Here's a Colorado Department of Transportation graphic showing the area where the PPSL will be installed.

As we've reported, the PPSL will be open on weekends, holidays and other dates designated as peak periods — and the fees will fluctuate, too.

During less busy times, the cost for using the toll lane will start low.

But during the heaviest traffic, it will escalate, with the higher cost serving as what developers hope will be enough of a disincentive for less well-heeled commuters to keep the express lane flowing.

How were the prices determined? Here's the explanation, as shared in a letter from HPTE general counsel Brent Butzin and Office of Major Project Development representative Joe Mahoney; it's among the documents included below.
HPTE's consultants recommend setting a base toll rate sufficient to cover toll collection costs, but low enough to attract initial customers to the toll lane, even when traffic in the general purpose lanes is relatively light and the corridor is free flowing. Given the unique travel characteristics of the I-70 Mountain Corridor, traffic volumes can increase by 200% to 300% over a period of 2-3 hours. As a result, PPSL operations will require a high level of flexibility to adjust toll rates, as an increased toll rate is the sole mechanism available to better ensure a reliable through-trip for the toll-playing customer....

The specfic toll rate ranges to be recommended by staff and HPTE's consultants suggests a toll rate range from a minimum of $3.00 at initial opening to a maximum toll of $30,00 (at the automated transponder rate). The HPTE has established guidelines for calculating a LPT rate. Based upon these guidelines, it is recommended that the LPT rate be set at the transponder rate in effect plus a surcharge of 35% not to exceed $10.00.
Here's a table from the documents showing the rates:

As you can see, the surcharge transforms the $3 minimum to $4.05 and the $30 maximum to $40.

CDOT spokespersons expect that the max amount to be imposed only rarely — but if forking over this sum cuts hours off the drive, plenty of people may well be willing to pay it.

That's how bad the situation along this part of I-70 has gotten.

Look below to see a Colorado Department of Transportation graphic describing the PPSL concept, followed by the aforementioned documents.

I 70 Toll Roads Pricing Document.pdf

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts