Denver residents prefer tolled express lanes over other funding options

News Colorado Department of Transportation April 21, 2006
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Recently surveyed Denver metropolitan area residents believe tolled express lanes can be a good way to reduce traffic congestion and pay for the addition of new highway lanes, the Colorado Tolling Enterprise (CTE), a division of the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) recently announced. The survey also noted that respondents overwhelmingly prefer tolled express lanes over increasing taxes.

The statistically significant survey was conducted by Corona Research Inc., the leading market and demographic research and strategic planning firm in the Rocky Mountain Region. Nearly 400 surveys were completed, resulting in a margin of error of +/- 5% with a 95% confidence level in the results.

"We have been exploring tolling as a way to provide congestion relief to Coloradans as we can't adequately do so with the level of transportation funding today. Even now it is difficult to merely maintain our existing roads and bridges, much less improve them," said Joe Jehn, chairman of the Colorado Tolling Enterprise. "Residents told us loud and clear that they want us to do something about traffic congestion now, but they don't want their taxes raised, and they would rather have the choice of paying to use tolled express lanes."

Nearly all of those surveyed (94.9%) believe congestion on Denver-area highways is a problem and more than two thirds think that tolled express lanes are a good way to pay for new lanes (67.9%). They also believe adding tolled express lanes is a good way to reduce congestion (66.2%).

More than half the respondents (57.6%) support adding tolled express lanes to existing highways and support was increased when tolled express lanes were presented as an alternative to raising taxes. Almost three fourths of respondents (74.4%) prefer tolled express lanes over a tax increase to fund "free" highway lanes. Support for tolled express lanes also increased if the lanes were found to be financially self-supporting (70.3%) when toll revenue could be used to pay for other transportation projects (64.5%) and when presented with the option of waiting 10 or more years to add "free" highway lanes (68.5%).

While not every respondent would use tolled express lanes, about half (50.1%) said they would use such a lane once a week or more. Key factors in determining usage would be road congestion, whether the driver is running late, cost, accessibility and potential time saved.

Jehn added, "We recognize that there are people out there who are strongly opposed to tolling under any circumstance. Adding tolled express lanes is just one option we're exploring and it's not appropriate in every case. Our commitment to the public is that we'll continue to look for other new and innovative ways to alleviate traffic congestion."

Other significant findings include:

• The majority of respondents (56.5%) believe that tolled express lanes are fair to the communities they run through;

• More than half (56%) of respondents would use tolled express lanes in congested conditions;

• Respondents were split as to whether they would rather have excess toll revenues go to other transportation projects (49.2%) or have tolls reduced (50.8%)

• A strong majority of respondents (81.7%) support expansion of mass transit;

• More than half (58%) of respondents support letting solo drivers pay a toll to use HOV lanes; and

• More than half (55.3%) of respondents were opposed to the idea of charging a toll at the Eisenhower Tunnel, even if those funds were used to pay for transportation improvements in the mountain areas.

Data from the survey will allow the CTE to formulate policies and potential business operations to ensure that decisions to improve the state's transportation system reflect the needs and expectations of Colorado residents.

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