Federal Highway Administrator J. Richard Capka and Colorado Gov. Bill Owens recently marked the opening of new high-occupancy toll (HOT) and express lanes on a seven-mile stretch of I-25 that will give more drivers a choice for congestion-free travel between downtown Denver and U.S. 36.
The U.S. Department of Transportation provided $2.8 million to jump-start the new system that may be used by buses, carpoolers and single-occupant vehicles whose drivers choose to pay a toll. The lanes are designed to remain congestion free by increasing the tolls for solo drivers as the level of traffic increases. Tolls will be charged electronically so single-occupant vehicles will not have to stop at tollbooths.
"Idling in traffic doesn't have to be a fact of life," said Capka. "For about the price of a good cup of coffee, these lanes give Denver drivers a choice to get out of traffic to get to work, home, errands or their child's ball game on time."
The Bush administration's recently announced plan to tackle traffic congestion, freight bottlenecks and airport delays promotes HOT lanes as one of the innovative measures to improve mobility for people and commerce, said Capka. U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta announced the new initiative, the "National Strategy to Reduce Congestion on America's Transportation Network," on May 16. It provides a blueprint for federal, state and local officials to cut traffic jams, relieve freight bottlenecks and reduce flight delays.
Drivers each year lose 3.7 billion hours and 2.3 billion gal of fuel sitting in traffic, according to Capka.
"We are focused on reining in congestion because it is one of the single largest threats to our economic prosperity and way of life," said Capka.
In addition to Colorado, only three other states—California, Texas and Minnesota—currently have HOT lanes.