Bus Rapid Transit, P3s on Tap for Colorado Roadways

The Colorado Department of Transportation is embarking on projects of a massive scale that will transform driving as we now know it.

by Erika Stutzma - Boulder Daily Camera / July 18, 2014

Those lines of red brake lights in front of you aren't misleading: Colorado is one of the fastest growing states in the country, and the metro region is a magnet for new homes, new inhabitants and jobs from Douglas County to Weld.

The Colorado Department of Transportation is embarking on projects of a massive scale that will transform driving as we now know it. The public-private partnership that is going to significantly change the U.S. 36 corridor at this point has been well-reported. Changes include a mix of toll lanes and free lanes, a bike lane and bus rapid transit.

Digital signs starting in 2016 will inform commuters on U.S. 36 and I-25 about drive times and current tolls, with the goal of managing driver behavior. If a drive time in free lanes is particularly challenging, for example, changing the toll to entice more single-occupancy vehicles into the paid lanes might ease congestion. Tolls cannot soar: They will be regulated based on the fare of the buses.

Other major changes that locals will notice in the near-term: By 2017, all of the high-occupancy vehicle lanes will require a driver with two passengers, not just one.

Since so many of us spend our weekends in the mountains, the other "local" change that drivers will notice are shoulder lanes in along I-70 to the mountain towns and villages. That project, where drivers during peak times can pay a toll -- again, dynamically priced and posted on a digital sign -- to drive (and hopefully not crash) on a shoulder lane. There will be pull-off areas constructed in case there is an accident. The nature of skiers and campers, who tend to travel in packs, means no high-occupancy lanes up in the hills. That's scheduled to be finished in fall 2015.

In other local commuting news, the RTD board voted this month to proceed with a $207 million investment to extend the light rail farther south, to Lone Tree, thus continuing their laser-like focus on moving people around the middle and south of the metro area. Another welcome project -- much smaller, much cheaper -- will be to spend $75 million for bus rapid transit along Colo. 119 from Boulder to Longmont. Both rely on some federal funding; we should hear about the Boulder-Longmont bus grants in the fall.

The slog to improve public transit and improve car commuting in Colorado, and particularly in the north metro area, has been frustrating. But the projects that CDOT and RTD are trying to inform Coloradans about today have great potential to ease congestion and expand options. After all this time and investment in other corridors, no one in Boulder or Weld counties will be falling over with gratitude -- have a nice ride to Denver, Lone Tree! But on the bright side, the work on lanes and bus rapid transit will benefit those of us who live, work and ski here.

-- Erika Stutzman, for the Camera editorial board. Email stutzmane@dailycamera.com. Twitter @stutzmane.


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