Nation’s most expensive toll road raises concerns

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IDAHO SPRINGS, Colo. -- If you hate getting stuck in traffic on Interstate 70 on the weekends, there's some good news.

Crews are building a new toll lane to clear the way and even save as much as 30 minutes on the drive back to Denver from the mountains.

But it comes at a cost. When it opens, the express lane will be the most expensive toll in the nation.

Very little new highway is actually being built. Instead, a shoulder lane is being transformed into a toll lane that will only be open on weekends and busy holidays.

The catch? It'll cost as much as $30 on days when traffic is at its worst.

"Who can afford $30 to go 10 to 12 miles? A few people in our society maybe. The 1 percent of 1 percent for example," said Jerry Fabyanic, a resident of Georgetown who turned out for an informational meeting the Colorado Department of Transportation held Tuesday night.

Officials with CDOT believe the toll will rarely cost $30.

"We really don't think it's actually going to be $30 very often. It will probably be closer to $10 or $15," said Megan Castle with CDOT.

But local leaders also worry about safety.

"We're concerned at a county level about the fact there will no longer be a breakdown lane, so how will we manage motor vehicle accidents?" asked Clear Creek County Commissioner Tom Hayden, who supports the project despite its challenges.

CDOT believes 750 to 900 vehicles will use the toll lane every hour.

Many locals at the meeting think a more permanent solution is necessary. Some want to see a train or monorail to alleviate some of the traffic on the highway. CDOT estimates that would cost upward of $17 billion, more than the state's entire budget.

"We're being overrun by our population growth on the Front Range and they can build eight lanes out there and they'll fill all eight lanes and they can build two toll lanes and they'll fill those too," said Mark Suma of Georgetown.

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