Posted on 28 April 2010.
By Debi Brazzale, COLORADO NEWS AGENCY
Calling the bill innovative and affordable, lawmakers Tuesday signaled their approval of a short-term solution to a long-time problem–congestion along the I-70 corridor through Colorado’s ski areas.
Senate Bill 184, sponsored by Democratic Senators Dan Gibbs of Silverthorne and Chris Romer of Denver, would allow the Colorado Department of Transportation to create a “zipper” lane along I-70 — a reversible lane utilized to accommodate overflow traffic in either direction.
Gibbs said the zipper will allow the flow of mountain rush-hour traffic to increase by fifty-percent, also noting that studies he has seen indicate for every hour traffic is at a standstill correlates to $1 million in lost revenue for Colorado’s tourism industry. Gibbs also stated that contrary to popular belief, the busiest months for the corridor are July and August, not the winter months. On average, 500,000 vehicles travel through the Eisenhower tunnel monthly.
Romer emphasized that this is bill is only a temporary fix.
“This is a common sense way to put a down payment on a long term solution,” said Romer.
Republican Minority leader Josh Penry of Grand Junction said he supports the measure because it gives CDOT the flexibility to apply the zipper as needed at a relatively low cost.
“This allows us to take a big step forward and do it through innovation rather than asking for more money,” said Penry.
Although there wasn’t any opposition to the measure, a couple of lawmakers reminded their colleagues that while the zipper seems like a good idea, it could ultimately bring back the traffic jams it is intended to cure.
“In reality what’s going to happen is more people will travel to the mountains–of course it’ll be good for the tourism,” said Rep. David Schultheis, R-Colorado Springs. “But it’ll be jammed again within a couple of years.”
Dovetailing Shultheis’ observations, Rep Joyce Foster, D-Denver, said she agreed with Schultheis, and lamented that the traffic issues weren’t addressed years earlier when discussions first emerged in the 1970’s about building a rail line. For some, like Foster, a rail line is inevitable as a long-term solution
This state has to make a commitment to the trains sooner than later and unfortunately it’s going to be much later,” said Foster.
SB184 is on the calendar for 3rd Reading Wednesday for an up or down roll call vote.