Toll rates could go up during 'special events'

Posted at 12:05 AM, Sep 17, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-17 02:05:24-04

The toll lanes to and from Boulder are not even completed yet and the rates may go up on certain occasions.

Plenary Roads Denver, the group that manages U.S. 36 between Denver and Boulder, is going to request a "special events" toll rate when the second phase of the construction is complete.

The second phase will be done in early 2016 and includes two more toll locations at 88th Street in Louisville/Superior and Table Mesa/Foothills Parkway in Boulder.

On Wednesday, the Highway Performance Transportation Enterprise revealed that the current toll lanes have processed 1.2 million scan transactions since they were activated on July 22. About one in five were HOV drivers.

The current toll rates, from Denver to Broomfield, are already set based on time of day, with the higher rates during peak driving times.

When the two new toll areas open, the costs will range from a low of 50 cents to a high of $1.15, for drivers who have transponders.

In preparation for major events at the 1stBank Center in Broomfield and University of Colorado football games and CU graduation, Plenary is going to ask CDOT, the Highway Performance Transportation Enterprise and RTD to allow for slightly higher toll rates during those special events.

Currently, weekend tolls are 25 cents at each toll location.

"Too many people may be using the express lane, thereby kind of defeating the purpose of having a reliable trip," said Plenary Roads Denver Project Manager Simon Stachnik.

The express lanes are meant to keep buses traveling at least 55 miles per hour. They can also be used as free HOV lanes if you have more two or more people in the car, with a switchable transponder.

The special event toll rates may be as simple as increasing the price of a certain segment to 35 cents, instead of 25 cents to try to prevent more drivers from using the lane.

"If you changed a segment from a quarter to 35 cents, how is that going to discourage someone from getting in the lane?" asked 7NEWS reporter Marshall Zelinger.

"You're right and it may not, but right now we're going to try and test that," said Stachnik. "It might be a dime, it might be 25 cents. I think at most, the change is 50 cents."

"I think that the people that are along the U.S. 36 corridor are the ones that are going to be affected the most," said State Rep. Mike Foote, D-Lafayette. "They're the ones that are going to end up paying the price, not the folks that are using the HOV lanes because they're carpooling, and not the folks that are using public transportation."

Foote has been outspoken in the management plan of the highway and how the toll lanes were conceived.

"I just think it's a way to maximize profits," said Foote.

"Is this to maximize profits?" Zelinger asked Stachnik.

"No, not really. If you're looking at it, it's actually almost reversed. We're trying to set a price that gets people out of the lanes to keep it running smoothly," said Stachnik.

There will be a telephone town hall meeting on Thursday, Oct. 1 from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. to discuss the proposed toll rates for special events and the second phase. The phone number is 1-877-229-8493 and the PIN is 112034.