Don’t get C-470 envy, commuters. Tell Colorado lawmakers to find money for CDOT to get to work.

Author: Joey Bunch - May 2, 2017 - Updated: July 31, 2017

Colorado commuters, don’t get mad if other major highways are getting work and yours on, say, Interstate 25, remains a parking during morning rush hour. A cyclone of factors involving timing, money and politics in Denver and Washington go into such projects.

My buddy Mark Matthews at The Denver Post had a good story Monday afternoon about $109 million in federal loans that will help pay for a $276 million project to add toll lanes to 12.5-mile of C-470 between I-25 and South Wadsworth Boulevard.

Colorado legislators are looking for about $300 million a year to repay $3.5 billion in proposed loans to jump-start the Colorado Department of Transportation’s list of highest priorities, including I-25 between Monument and Castle Rock and between Denver and Fort Collins, as well as the I-70 mountain corridor.

Work should be done by the in two years. That’s great news if you need to get from Park Meadows Mall to Bear Valley, but not so much in getting from Centennial to downtown Denver or Colorado Springs.

But it’s like traveling down a road: You have to get rolling, and Colorado lawmakers are at a standstill.

Legislators are still working on a bill to put money into transportation, with dimming hopes and little more than a week left in the legislative session. The C-470 project has been in the works for years.

“The C-470 Express Lanes is the culmination of a longer-term planning process started in the late 2000s and was completed a year or so ago along with the identifying funding to move forward with construction,” CDOT spokeswoman Amy Ford told me.

“The process to begin planning for I-25 between C470 and Colorado Springs began this year and is being expedited such that we could start construction on the gap between Monument and Castle Rock should funds be identified in 2019. This follows previous planning, funding and construction on I-25 in the last decade in Colorado Springs and in Pueblo, building COSMIX (Colorado Springs Metro Interstate Expansion), widening 25 north to Woodmen, the Cimarron and Fillmore interchanges and the new Pueblo freeway.”

Toll lanes on I-25, however, have proven fraught with political problems from truckers and some Democratic lawmakers, who see them as double taxation that could sink a broader transportation fix.

CDOT has said it won’t use any new tax money on toll lanes, but fares paid by those who want the luxury help relieve traffic congestion and pay for projects used by those riding toll-free, such as the Boulder Turnpike alongside U.S. 36 northwest of Denver.

“Most taxpayers, when they hear about managed lanes, toll lanes, whatever, they get very agitated,” Gov. John Hickenlooper told reporters. “But they don’t have to take managed lanes … and the people who do are lowering the taxes on everyone else.”

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch is the senior political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has a 31-year career in journalism, including the last 15 in Colorado. He was part of the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and is a two-time Pulitzer finalist. His resume includes covering high school sports, the environment, the casino industry and civil rights in the South, as well as a short stint at CNN.