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The office of Colorado Gov. Jared Polis on Tuesday issued the following press release on his letter to the Colorado Transportation Investment Office requesting the Interstate 70 Mountain Express Lanes be kept open longer over the weeks around the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays to better serve travelers:
In a letter Monday to the Colorado Transportation Investment Office — the division of the Colorado Department of Transportation that owns and operates Colorado Express Lanes — Gov. Jared Polis requested that the I-70 mountain Express Lanes be open longer over the weeks around the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays to provide more choices to travelers during the holiday season.
“The public invested significant dollars to build these lanes, and as a matter of public trust, we need to make sure they are open when people need them,” Polis said in the letter to CTIO. “This means weekends, holiday weeks, peak tourism seasons and the like. These extra lanes should be available as options to Coloradans and visitors who want to get out of traffic and choose to pay to use them, which also reduces traffic in the free lanes.”
The I-70 mountain Express Lanes are technically known as “peak period shoulder lanes.” They are not as wide as regular highway lanes, and under a policy established in collaboration with the Federal Highway Administration and local partners, can only be open a limited number of days per year. The rest of the time, they operate as shoulders for emergency breakdowns.
Under current policy, the eastbound lane can be open no more than 100 days a year and no more than 1,168 hours per year. Meanwhile, the westbound lane is limited to being open no more than 125 days a year and no more than 965 hours per year. Weather conditions, special events and other factors can determine whether the lanes are open or closed.
“Many Coloradans travel over the holidays through the mountains for winter recreation or just to celebrate the season with family and friends,” Polis said in the letter to CTIO. “This year, I want their travels through the mountain corridor to be as congestion-free as possible.”
The governor has also requested that CTIO revisit the total number of days when the lanes are open and how that number can be increased to meet Colorado’s current and future needs.
CTIO will open the westbound I-70 mountain Express Lanes during Thanksgiving week from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. (and later if needed) and the eastbound lanes from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on:
Wednesday, Nov. 22
Thursday, Nov. 23 (Thanksgiving Day)
Friday, Nov. 24
Saturday, Nov. 25
Sunday, Nov. 26
For Christmas week, the mountain lanes will be open 24 hours a day on:
Saturday, Dec. 23
Sunday, Dec. 24
Monday, Dec. 25 (Christmas Day)
Tuesday, Dec. 26
Wednesday, Dec. 27
Thursday, Dec. 28
Friday, Dec. 29
Saturday, Dec. 30
Sunday, Dec. 31st (New Year’s Eve)
Monday, Jan. 1 (New Year’s Day)
CTIO Director Piper Darlington said the office would gladly accommodate the governor’s request.
“Our holiday seasons are busy, and we want to be here as an option for travelers enjoying the beauty of the mountains at this special time of year,” Darlington said. “We wish everyone safe travels over the holiday season.”
Motorists without switchable transponders can get one at expresstoll.com to save an average of 40% off license plate tolls. Drivers are also reminded that there is no HOV exception for the I-70 mountain Express Lanes. All vehicles must pay the toll.
Further, vehicles with three or more axles, such as RVs, big trucks and vehicles pulling trailers, cannot use the I-70 mountain lanes.
And a final reminder, drivers in the mountain Express Lanes must obey the speed limit and cannot weave over the solid yellow line. Weaving over the solid line will result in a $75 fine.
Drivers should expect heavier traffic over the next few days as people travel for the Thanksgiving weekend and to shop for the holidays.
To minimize traffic impacts, the Colorado Department of Transportation is suspending all construction and maintenance projects by midday Wednesday. In addition, no lane closures are permitted this week on Interstate 70 between Denver and the Utah border. The only work exception is for emergency operations. All projects can resume work on Monday, Nov. 27.
“We appreciate the patience of the traveling public during a record construction season where our work included major improvements across the I-70 corridor,” said CDOT Executive Director Shoshana Lew. “We are confident that the traveling public will see the tangible benefits of these improvements, like smoother pavement, new bridges and a new auxiliary lane in Summit County. But we also know that construction is inconvenient and we want to make holiday travel as easy as possible.”
Traffic at the Eisenhower/Johnson Memorial Tunnels typically is lower Thanksgiving weekend than other fall and winter holiday weekends.
The CDOT Safety Patrol will be assisting motorists in need during Thanksgiving weekend. Coverage areas include major highways in Denver and I-25 in Fort Collins and Colorado Springs from 6 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Off-Peak hours are 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekends. Drivers are reminded to slow down and move over, if possible, when approaching the Safety Patrol or other first responders on the roadside. More information on the Safety Patrol, which is sponsored by GEICO, can be found at SafetyPatrolinfo.com and the CDOT website.