Capitol rally will allow Grand County to voice concerns over I-70 toll proposal
March 27, 2008
Sen. Dan Gibbs will rally today at the state Capitol to stop two bills from passing ” bills he said could hurt Grand County’s economy.
One of two proposals to start charging a toll on I-70 will get its first hearing in the Senate today. Legislators recently introduced bills to turn Interstate-70 into a toll road from Floyd Hill to the Eisenhower Tunnel and another to charge motorists who use Eisenhower Tunnel.
Gibbs, D-Silverthorne, who represents the 16th District, said these bills could hurt the mountain communities he represents.
“My fear is that people will think twice about coming to Grand County,” he said. “We depend on a tourist-based economy.”
Senate Minority Leader Andrew McElhany wants to charge motorists a $5 toll when they use the Eisenhower Tunnel. The fee would go toward funding to widen the highway.
This will make traffic at the Tunnel more congested, Gibbs said. “Can you imagine adding a toll when people are already stopped?”
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Sen. Chris Romer, D-Denver, wants to turns I-70 into a toll and HOV highway on Sundays and busy weekends during the ski season. Drivers who don’t have three passengers to meet HOV requirements would be charged a toll.
The move has angered some in communities along I-70 who’ve been considering whether to widen the highway, add mass transit or some combination of both. A group of concerned citizens and lawmakers, known as the I-70 Corridor Collaborative Effort Team, is set to release recommendations in May.
“It would have devastating impacts on our mountain economies,” Gibbs said. “Tourism is a major part of our economy.”
Mountain towns already have higher expenses than other Colorado areas, he said. To make them pay more is “irresponsible.”
“The bill sponsors are really shoving the toll idea down the throats of the mountain community,” he said.
Neither McElhany or Romer have met with leaders of impacted communities or set public hearings, he said. The rally at the capitol is needed so their voices can be heard, Gibbs said.
“They have to come to the table to work with the community,” he said. “These bills are really putting the cart before the horse.”
The Sky-Hi Daily News could not reach McElhany or Romer for comment before deadline on Wednesday.
Gibbs said Republicans and Democrats must work together to find a solution to solve the traffic problems on I-70.
“(These tolls) could have a negative impact on the economy in Grand County,” he said
– Information from Associated Press stories was used in the reporting of this article.