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Colorado law includes fines for misusing I-70 mountain express lanes

Toll cameras will generate automatic citations

Tractor-trailer on Interstate 70 near Grand unction, Colorado. (Photo: Shutterstock)

For truckers (and all other drivers for that matter) tempted to sneak into Colorado’s Interstate 70 mountain express lanes when they’re closed — they’ll soon be captured on camera.

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Gov. Jared Polis signed a bill into law Tuesday allowing the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) and its vendor to use the express lanes’ existing license plate cameras to send automatic fines to drivers caught venturing into them when they’re closed. The narrower-than-normal express lanes were added on I-70’s inside shoulders and typically are open only on weekends and holidays, when mountain traffic is heavier.

According to the legislative analysis of House Bill 1074, 47,828 vehicles were detected in I-70’s eastbound express lane in 2020 during times it was closed.

The law will go into effect Aug. 1, but CDOT spokesman Matt Inzeo said plans call for enforcement to begin later, likely by Nov. 1, according to a report from The Denver Post. Exact fines haven’t been decided. In the coming months, CDOT’s enterprise arm, which oversees the I-70 toll lanes, will set the fine structure within the allowable range of $10 to $250, Inzeo added.

The new law also gives CDOT a tool to enforce vehicle size limitations when express lanes are open because it prohibits the drivers of motor vehicles with more than 2 axles, or that are 25 feet long or longer, from using the express lanes at any time.

CDOT has added the managed toll lanes, which charge varying tolls depending on traffic volume, in each direction on a 13-mile stretch between Empire and the Veterans Memorial Tunnels east of Idaho Springs. The eastbound lane began operating in 2015. The westbound lane started a testing phase last summer, and CDOT plans to start charging tolls in late May.

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Both are allowed to operate during a limited number of hours and days per year under an agreement with federal regulators because they don’t meet interstate lane standards.

The bill allowing fines during closures passed the House 43-22 and the Senate 27-6, with bipartisan support, but some Republicans opposed the toll lanes.

Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Nick Austin.

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Nick Austin

Nick is a meteorologist with 20 years of forecasting and broadcasting experience. He was nominated for a Midsouth Emmy for his coverage during a 2008 western Tennessee tornado outbreak. He received his Bachelor of Science in Meteorology from Florida State University, as well as a Bachelor of Science in Management from the Georgia Tech. Nick is a member of the American Meteorological Society and National Weather Association. As a member of the weather team at WBBJ-TV in Jackson, Tennessee, Nick was nominated for a Mid-South Emmy for live coverage of a major tornado outbreak in February 2008. As part of the weather team at WRCB-TV in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Nick shared the Chattanooga Times-Free Press Best of the Best award for “Best Weather Team” eight consecutive years.