Mountain travelers take advantage of new I-70 Express Lane

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CLEAR CREEK COUNTY, Colo. — There are some big changes on Interstate 70 in the mountains as a new express toll lane is now available as drivers return to Denver.

The new lane is the shoulder of eastbound I-70 between Empire and Idaho Springs. During heavy traffic times on weekends and holidays, the shoulder will open as a toll lane for drivers who want to reduce their travel time. It will remain a shoulder the rest of the time.

The goal is to always keep cars moving at least 45 mph, the Colorado Department of Transportation said. Since opening Sunday, the third lane seemed to be helping ease traffic.

“I was pretty surprised. It was crowded up there early this morning so I thought it’d be crowded on the way back, so it’s good,” said Jennifer Elliott, who was driving from Winter Park to Larkspur.

“Traffic was actually doing more than 55,” Granby resident Justin Scott said. “Not a hiccup at all.”

Scott said Sunday was the first time he drove into Idaho Springs on a weekend in a long time. He usually avoids the trip because of the bumper-to-bumper traffic.

“Labor Day was a three-hour drive once I hit I-70 to [Idaho Springs],” Scott said. “And today, maybe 10 minutes.”

Drivers are skeptical the toll lane will continue to ease traffic in the future. The lane is free as CDOT tests the new equipment. Soon, the 13-mile stretch could cost drivers as much as $40. The price will fluctuate depending on the traffic.

“We’ll see though if the market takes it there. We don’t know yet. That’s something we’ll see and test here over the next season,” CDOT spokeswoman Amy Ford said.

CDOT will discuss next week when to begin charging for the lane.​

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