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Drivers will be fined for driving in the I-70 mountain express toll lanes when they are closed

Fines are set to begin in August
I-70 mountain express toll lanes
Posted at 3:46 PM, Mar 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-17 19:48:47-04

EMPIRE, Colo. — Come this summer, Colorado will begin ticketing drivers who use the I-70 mountain express toll lanes when they are closed up to $250.

"The fine is a little extreme," said Jack Brinkley, who was driving through Empire.

This week, Gov. Jared Polis signed a new bill into law allowing the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) to use license plate readers when the I-70 mountain express lanes are closed.

“People should be following the law. I just think it is open so erratically that people don’t always know when it is open," said Brinkley. "Maybe you didn’t notice the last sign so you jump in and jump out, use it as a passing lane and now that is going to be a steep fine."

According to state data, last year, about 45,000 drivers used the eastbound express toll lane when it was closed. CDOT says drivers who use the lane illegally risk creating a serious crash.

“When you are coming down from Empire, there is some blind corners," said Nick Farber, director of the Colorado Transportation Investment Office. "You come up over hills, and you won’t know if that lane is closed. And you are going 80 miles an hour and you come around a corner and there is someone changing a tire. You’re not going to be able to stop."

Another big question from drivers Denver7 spoke with between Empire and Idaho Springs is why the toll lanes seem to be closed so often.

“I think it is ridiculous. There ought to be a way for them to create a lane that is open seven days a week,” said Phil Klump, who was on his way to Winter Park.

CDOT says it all comes down to federal regulations, which limit the time the lanes can be open each year.

“The eastbound is open 100 days a year and the westbound can be open 125 days a year, and that is because it is a peak period shoulder lane and not a full-time express lane like the other corridors,” said Farber.

Still, it’s a new hefty fine for drivers looking to beat traffic when tolls lanes aren’t open.

“Well obviously I am not going to use it,” said Klump.

Drivers who are caught driving in the toll lanes illegally will be mailed a fine of up to $250.