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Heads up: Civil penalties for I-70 Mountain Express Lanes violations begin Friday

July 19, 2023, 11:52 am

The Colorado Department of Transportation on Wednesday issued the following press release on pending fines for scofflaws driving in I-70 Mountain Express Lanes when they’re closed:

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DENVER — Drivers who’ve been using the I-70 Express Lanes in the mountains as their own personal passing lanes — or who’ve been driving in the lanes when they’re closed — have had 30 days to stop their dangerous behavior. 

Now, it’s about to get real for them.

Starting Friday, July 21, motorists who drive unsafely in the Express Lanes on the I-70 Mountain Corridor will be issued fines known as “civil assessment penalties.” For the past month, drivers have received mailed warnings for violations such as using the Express Lanes when they’re closed, weaving across the solid yellow line and driving in the lanes with an oversized vehicle. As of July 21, the warnings will cease, and drivers will be mailed fines starting at $75 and increasing to $150 if not paid within 20 days of issuance. 

Since the month-long grace period started on June 21, 5,640 warnings have been mailed to drivers in violation of these rules. 

“The number of warnings issued during the grace period is extremely concerning,” said Tim Hoover, a CDOT spokesman. “We don’t want to see so many people get fines — we just want roadway users to follow the Express Lane rules so everybody can get to their destinations safely.”

The Mountain Express Lanes are technically “peak period shoulder lanes,” meaning they are narrower than typical highway lanes and cannot accommodate oversized vehicles such as semi trucks, RVs and vehicles pulling trailers. Due to federal regulations, they can only be open for a certain number of days per year and operate as emergency shoulders when they are closed. Driving in the lanes when they’re closed is extremely dangerous as violators could crash into a disabled vehicle, an emergency responder or a maintenance vehicle using the lane as a shoulder during this time.

When the Express Lanes are open, weaving in and out of the lanes creates hazards for drivers who aren’t expecting vehicles to cross the solid lines. Additionally, navigating the significant speed differentials between traffic in the Express Lanes versus general purpose lanes greatly increases the risk of a crash.

“These civil penalties really boil down to safety,” Hoover said. “Motorists in violation of these simple rules may think they’re saving travel time by driving dangerously or ‘outsmarting the system,’ but in reality, they’re creating life-threatening risks for themselves and everyone else on the road. We hope this program is the reminder people need to drive safely and follow the rules.” 

This program is the result of HB22-1074 passed by the Colorado legislature in 2022. This law allows Colorado to enforce Express Lanes rules using first-in-the-nation roadway technology. A combination of roadway sensors, cameras and other sophisticated technology will detect and issue penalties to oversized vehicles, vehicles weaving across the solid line and vehicles using the Mountain Express Lanes when they’re closed. 

For those who receive a civil penalty, there will be several ways to pay the fine, including: 

  • Paying online at ExpressLaneSafety.com/CO.  (Motorists will need their license plate or notice number.) 
  • Making a payment with the notice number using the automated phone system at 1-(800)-450-5167.

Signs on the I-70 Mountain Corridor inform drivers that violators may receive fines of $250 for breaking the Colorado Express Lanes rules. This is the total amount allowed by state statute, but per the direction of the board of directors for the Colorado Transportation Investment Office, fines will begin at $75.
The civil penalties will eventually apply to all Express Lane corridors in Colorado, but early enforcement will focus on the I-70 Mountain Express Lanes from Idaho Springs to U.S. 40.

The I-70 Mountain Express Lanes, like all of the lanes in the Colorado Express Lanes system, are aimed at relieving congestion by applying a toll to manage traffic. Traffic studies have shown that the lanes can provide more reliable trip times, with time savings typically ranging between 20%-50%.

To learn more, visit expresslanes.codot.gov.

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