Colorado Planning Pricey Toll Lane for Skiers

Tolls from $3 to $30 could allow I-70 drivers to skip ski traffic

Marquee image: The glow of red brake lights are a familiar sight near the Eisenhower Tunnel on I-70. PHOTO: Dave Herholz

All you want to do is ski, but you’re trapped. You’re not moving, Spotify won’t connect in the mountain pass, and you’ve already gone A-Z on the license plate game. Being stuck in a line of cars all making their way to the same ski hill can make you crazy—especially on a powder day. Worse yet, you’re beat from a long day on the mountain and the trek home looks like it will take all night. At this point, you’d sell an organ just to make the car in front of you move. How about forking over $30?

Skiers on Colorado’s I-70 may have that choice with the addition of an express lane for ski traffic due to open late this fall. Drivers with the need for speed can opt into the third lane, for a price ranging from $3 to $30, depending on traffic. Supply, meet demand.

According to the Denver Post, the 13-mile toll lane on eastbound I-70 (towards Denver) will run from the Empire Junction to the Veterans Memorial Tunnels in Idaho Springs during high traffic times like weekends and Monday holidays. Using the toll lane will save drivers an estimated time of 30 minutes, compared to regular lanes.

Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) spokeswoman Amy Ford told the Post the fluctuating tolls will limit drivers in the lane, keep traffic moving, and help repay CDOT’s $24.6 million loan taken to fund the additional lane. The $72 million project was paid for with a mix of federal and state funds, in addition to the loan.

“It is not like every other express lane or toll lane around the country that is based on commuter traffic, this is based on recreational traffic,” CDOT spokeswoman Megan Castle told Fox31 News. “So we want to see people are investing in their recreation. Are they also willing to invest in their transportation and their time?”

Highway officials noted the toll wouldn’t go to $30 except in the worst traffic, which, if you’ve skied at Keystone, Breckenridge, Loveland, Vail, Copper Mountain, or Beaver Creek, feels like always. At $30 for a 13-mile stretch, that would be $2.31 per mile and the priciest toll in the nation.

For context, here are five other things that cost $30 dollars:
1. A cheesy pie at Beau Jo’s Pizza in Idaho Springs while you’re waiting out traffic.
2. Half a tank of gas.
3. A bottle of decent bourbon.
4. Thirty things from the Dollar Store.
5. Your electric bill.

Should you choose to save the cash and opt out of the pay-to-plane lane, group sing-a-longs are a great way to pass the time.