Plenary Roads Denver to take over I-25 toll lanes in March; Toll fees also increasing

DENVER - The company helping pay for the new toll lanes on U.S. 36 will take over the I-25 toll lanes in March at the same time the rates go up.

As part of the U.S. 36 arrangement, Plenary Roads Denver will assume operations and maintenance responsibilities for the I-25 Express Lanes in mid-to-late March, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation.

At that same time, the price of using the toll lanes on I-25 will increase during several time periods.

The current maximum fee of $4 will increase to $4.45 from 7:15-8:15 a.m. and from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.

During other time periods, the fees will increase 10 cents to 55 cents. However, there will be no increase from 6:45 a.m. - 7:15 a.m. and from 8:15 a.m. to 8:45 a.m. when the fee is currently $4.

"While responsibility for operations and maintenance of the I-25 Express Lanes now falls on Plenary Roads Denver, ownership of the highway is always maintained by the public, through CDOT," state officials explain in a news release. "The existing general lanes will also remain free for all commuters."

The tolls collected on I-25 will go to Plenary to compensate the company for the operations and maintenance work.

Despite the change, drivers who use the toll lanes will continue to use the same transponders and continue to pay E-470, who will continue to handle billing and processing.

The toll increases were set last year by the High Performance Transportation Enterprise (HPTE) Board, CDOT said.

"In order to maintain the reliability of the travel speeds, the board adjusted the tolling based on the congestion periods throughout the day," CDOT said. "Specifically the toll will increase by 10 to 55 cents depending on the time of day traveled with the highest increase scheduled for peak rush hours."

-- U.S. 36 project history

Plenary Roads Denver is helping finance improvements on U.S. 36 including a new express lane for bus rapid transit, carpool vehicles and tolled vehicles, as well as the reconstruction of existing general purpose lanes and the replacement of many aging bridges and a bikeway.

Phase I of the US 36 project is currently under construction and will be opened by spring 2015. CDOT says phase II of the project will be executed through the public-private partnership with Plenary Roads Denver, which was chosen in April as the concessionaire for the project after a two-phase competitive big process.

Plenary will be repaid over a 50-year period through toll revenue from the new Express Lanes.

CDOT said it is leasing U.S. 36 to Plenary for a half-century because it can't afford to do the reconstruction itself. The toll lanes will be operated by Plenary. Once the company makes its money back from the construction, CDOT will start to collect 50 percent of the toll revenue.

As 7NEWS first reported in April, the toll lanes will be changing and no longer will be free unless you have three or more occupants in the vehicle. That change will affect all state toll roads by 2017.

As part of the contract, Plenary will also provide the maintenance and snow removal on all of U.S. 36. To do the maintenance, CDOT will pay Plenary $675,000 each year. To provide snow and ice removal on the entire highway, CDOT will pay up to $458,000 each year.

CDOT can also penalize Plenary for not completing maintenance or providing proper snow and ice removal.

See the contract here: http://ch7ne.ws/1g5txi1.

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