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DENVER -- The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) has billions of dollars earmarked for major highway expansions, most which include new express or toll lanes. After questions from viewers, Contact7 asked CDOT why.
The Central I-70 expansion project, the I-25 Gap expansion project, and the Northern I-25 expansion project all include new express lanes. Stories about those projects and their lanes are usually followed by questions to Contact7 that include: Why not expand highways with regular lanes? Why don’t people actually use the existing ones? And aren’t those lanes only used by rich people in fancy cars?
Statistics, provided by CDOT to Denver7, defended the inclusion of those lanes based on how much existing ones are used and by whom.
According to CDOT, more than a million people a month use the I-25 express lane that runs just north of downtown Denver. During the evening rush hour, more than 300,000 cars use the lane. That equates to about ten percent, meaning one out of every ten cars is removed from the equation of general congestion as a result of having that lane there.
That percentage is even higher for the I-70 mountain express lane. During peak times, fifteen percent of traffic uses the express over the regular lanes, and that number increases during holiday weekends.
“That adds extra capacity for the entire corridor so we can see overall travel times decrease and overall travel speeds increase,” Megan Castle of CDOT told Denver7.
Despite that claim, many drivers still complained.
"I think it's a nightmare. It takes you twice as long to get to Denver than it should. And if there's an accident, forget it," said Stephanie Welker, a Monument resident.
But what about that idea that express lanes are a “Lexus Lane”?
According to CDOT, 88 percent of all express lane usage in 2017 came from regular brand cars - Toyota, Ford, Chevy, Dodge. The remaining 12 percent came from the “high-end” car brand categories.
“What we’re seeing is that everyday people use them,” Castle added.
CDOT has promised “major improvement” to traffic congestion on I-25 and I-70 from these expansion projects and their express lanes. Contact7 will stay on top of this ever-changing story.