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CDOT gets an earful about proposed toll lane in I-25 'Gap' - KOAA.com | Continuous News | Colorado Springs and Pueblo

CDOT gets an earful about proposed toll lane in I-25 'Gap'

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Colorado Department of Transportation officials endured complaint after complaint Wednesday night during a public meeting in Colorado Springs regarding the proposed expansion of Interstate 25 between Monument and Castle Rock. 

At issue was CDOT's "preferred alternative" of creating one additional lane in each direction of the 18-mile stretch and making it an "Express Toll" lane. 

El Paso County Commissioners are among those in El Paso County who vehemently oppose the toll lane option, especially considering county voters approved $25 million in taxpayer contributions to help pay for and expedite construction on the two-mile stretch of "The Gap" that lies in El Paso County.  By contrast, Douglas County, which comprises the remaining 16 miles, has pledged just $10 million.

"Your surveys are saying that people want this are based on: 'Would you do this if you were forced to accept it'?," one man yelled at a CDOT official.  "I don't buy into that."  CDOT says express toll lanes are the preferred option "because they best meet the Project's Purpose and Need to improve travel reliability over the long term in addition to improving safety and mobility." 

Drivers, CDOT claims, would have the option to pay the toll and enjoy "reliable" passage to their destination as most drivers would opt for the two free general purpose lanes, leaving the express toll lane mostly wide open. 

"Oh, right, so you'll wait until there's a traffic jam and then you extort the money out of people because they've got to get to work," the same man argued.

CDOT also argues the express toll lane will encourage carpooling and use of public transportation, thereby reducing the number of vehicles on the highway and easing up congestion. 

"It's getting more people through the corridor with less vehicles, and that's the real reason why we're doing this," said Chuck Atterdo, CDOT Environmental Project Manager for The Gap. 

That notion was rejected by Republican El Paso County Commissioner candidate Vickie Tonkins, one of numerous people to speak at Wednesday's public hearing at Liberty High School.  "If I want to carpool, I'll carpool.  But don't put in a managed way to where the state is telling me to do that," Tonkins said.

"In my mind, what that does is make it a disincentive to travel on that lane and it's not serving the purpose it was intended to serve," said Colorado Springs resident Paul-David Almond.  "I do not like the idea of being told I need to be managed on what I drive, when I drive, and how I drive," Tonkins continued.

"Do the lanes the way you have them laid out, but do them, at least starting out, without tolls, and see how that works, and see if you do have a problem with transportation reliability, which I do not believe that you will have," said another member of the audience.

CDOT is hoping that Federal grants will pay $65 million of the $350 million overall price tag.  It is likely that the project will be more attractive to grantors if project leaders can demonstrate an innovative and reliable revenue stream to help pay maintenance costs over a large number of years. 

Having a dedicated toll lane is one potential mechanism for such revenue.  CDOT is also considering having all three lanes in each direction be general purpose lanes open to all traffic, however if that ends up the final decision, the third lane can not be converted into a toll lane at a later date. 

That is why many at Wednesday's meeting suggested building the highway out to four lanes each direction, with three general purpose lanes and one express toll lane.  CDOT says there is simply not enough money available to make that happen.

Public comment will continue to be accepted online until May 29 at i25gap.codot.gov.

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