I-70 Mountain Express Toll Lane To Open This Winter

This past summer and fall, anyone traveling to or from Summit County probably drove through road construction at some point as workers paved the way for installation of a new toll lane on a section of the Eastbound I-70 corridor between Empire and Idaho Springs.  This new lane is one solution of many proposed ideas to help to alleviate some of the heavy traffic congestion issues, particularly on the weekends and holidays during the ski season. Drivers who use the new toll lane can expect to shave up to 30 minutes off of a typical drive to Denver on a Sunday in ‘ski traffic’.  Other solutions that are being put into action this winter include the enforcement of Traction Laws and Passenger Vehicle Chain Laws.

Heavy Ski Traffic on I-70

How the Toll Lane Will Work:

The new Eastbound toll lane is scheduled to be open for use starting Saturday, Dec. 12, 2015. Availability of the Mountain Express Toll Lane will be offered 73 days per year and only during periods of peak travel such as the weekends and holidays.  The Express Lane stretches for 13 miles along eastbound I-70 from the Empire Junction through the Veterans Memorial Tunnels (aka Twin Tunnels) in Idaho Springs. When the lane is not open it will be considered a shoulder and it likely won’t be open during heavy snow periods.

When tolling commences, electronic message signs on the Mountain Express Toll Lane will clearly display the current toll price prior to Express Lane entrance points, so motorists will know how much they will be charged if they choose to take advantage of the lane.

Limitations on the Lane:

Semi-trailers, vehicles with more than two axles, buses or any trailers over 25 feet will not be allowed to use the lane. There is no set number of passengers required to use the lane and motorcycles are permitted as well, but keep in mind that anyone using the Express lane will be charged for use. High Occupancy Vehicles (HOV), motorcycles and hybrids will pay the same fees as everyone else; there are no free uses during normal operation.

Rates and Toll Collection:

There are two ways for drivers to use the lane, with an ‘ExpressToll’ account, aimed at regular users or a ‘License Plate Toll’, which is how a typical visitor would likely use the lane. The base toll rate for ExpressToll pass holders is $3 and with typical traffic volumes, it may range between $8 and $10.  At high traffic volumes, the afternoon rate ranges between $10 and $15 or higher depending upon trip reliability and traffic volume. The concept is basic- as traffic increases, the toll prices increase in order to keep the traffic moving.  Drivers who don’t hold a pass, using License Plate Tolling, will pay the toll plus an additional surcharge fee to cover the increased costs of processing the transaction without a pass. The bill will be sent to the registered vehicle owner.  There is no traditional ‘toll booth’, as overhead readers track tolling instead of requiring a stop and pay method.

The two existing general purpose lanes will remain free and open to all travelers at all times. If traffic gets detoured onto the Express Lane during an incident on I-70 or if there is an incident on the Express Lane, no tolls will be charged.

CDOT encourages motorists using the Express Lanes on I-70 to get an ExpressToll account and pass to save money on tolls every time.  The electronic pass means motorists with a pass will be charged automatically for the toll and avoid additional fees associated with License Plate Tolling.  Express Toll accounts and passes may be obtained at www.ExpressToll.com or you may call 303-537-3470 for more information.

Here is an example of the toll rates during a high volume time:

Express Toll

License Plate Toll

Morning

$3

$6.75

Afternoon

$10

$17.83

Mid-Afternoon

$15

$25.00

Late-Afternoon

$5

$9.92

Evening

$4

$8.33

We are excited to see how this new Express Toll lane can help locals and visitors alike experience easier and faster travel to and from the mountains this winter.  In addition to the new toll lane, there are some other tips to ensure a quick trip to the airport.  Stay Sunday night or opt for our late 8 pm Sunday checkout option and avoid the peak Sunday travel times.  Do you have flexible vacation dates?  Book your winter ski vacation for a non-peak weekend or even a mid-week stay, avoiding school breaks and holiday weekends. You will find wide open runs, short to no lift lines and better lodging rates and property selection. Call a SummitCove vacation planner today so we can help you find your perfect Keystone vacation rental.

Written By: Rusty Simmons

The Colorado ‘Bustang’ Shuttle: Affordable and Eco-Friendly Mountain Travel

If you live in Colorado, you most likely appreciate the opportunities our state provides when it comes to public transportation. Whether you are using the services because you have no other choice or just trying to be environmentally conscious, it is an extremely useful option.

Here in Keystone, getting from one town to the next is a breeze with the Summit Stage. It’s even free. In Boulder and Fort Collins the buses are flocking with students going about their day. In Denver, riding the bus is an essential part of many people’s lives. In Colorado Springs it is hard to even imagine life without the Mountain Metropolitan Transportation system.

It’s when you are trying to get from city to city that things can become difficult. At the moment, there are no major bus lines that will connect you to Denver from Colorado Springs, Fort Collins, or anywhere along the I-70 corridor. Over the past few years there has been a growing demand for some type of transportation along these routes. Currently, the only way to get from one major city to the next is by purchasing an expensive shuttle ride. Until now…

Colorado will turn many people’s dreams into a reality this upcoming Spring when they release, “The Bustang.” The Bustang is (more or less) the combination of a Greyhound bus and a Ford Mustang. The bus will hold 51 passengers, luggage, and six bicycles. The amenities on the bus include free wireless internet, usb ports, outlets, reclining chairs and possibly the most important amenity, a bathroom.

So, what routes will this bus travel along? Colorado Department of Transportation will provide services from 3 of Colorado’s major cities to and from Denver. Those three cities include Glenwood Springs, Fort Collins, and Colorado Springs. Each bus will make stops at major towns as well as existing park and ride stations along the way. For example; the bus that travels between Denver and Glenwood Springs will make stops at Eagle, Vail, and Frisco.

The bus services will only run during the week to start. If that proves to be a successful venture, they will most likely add additional weekend trips. There will be one roundtrip bus each day between Glenwood Springs and Denver. Fort Collins and Colorado Springs will both have 5 round trip busses between Denver. All these busses will travel during peak hours only. There will be one off-peak bus from Denver to Colorado Springs each day as well.

There is a wide variety of people that will benefit from these busses. Many people will use the services as an alternate way of commuting to and from Denver. That will give these folks extra time to get some work done or even get another hour of sleep before/after the work day. With reclining seats and wireless internet available, both these options sound more appealing than sitting behind the wheel of your vehicle.

For those folks visiting Colorado on a budget, this bus will be a huge help. Instead of paying upwards of $50 for a shuttle ride to the ski resorts, you can easily cut that price in half. It will likely involve taking two busses, but if timed out correctly the process should be very easy. Not only is this a money saver but it is the safer option for those people who dislike driving in some of Colorado’s treturous weather. These busses will be equipped with drop down chains that can be applied in seconds for when the roads get icy or snowy.

If you are one of the many Colorado folks that have a particular week day dedicated as your ski day, this bus will come in handy for you as well. It is a small fee of $9 to get to Loveland from Denver or $17 dollars to go all the way to Vail. If you have traveled these mountain roads before, you are well aware that this is probably less than you would pay in gas.  It is also friendlier on the environment and could potentially ease traffic once it becomes more widely-used by having less cars out on the roads.  Not to mention the fewer miles and maintenance on your own vehicle!  You can spend the time reading, watching movies, napping or just enjoying the view!

Bustang fares will vary depending on how far you are traveling. Here is some of the standard projected bus fares:

Glenwood Springs    >     Denver     $28
Colorado Springs     >      Denver     $12
Fort Collins               >     Denver     $10

You will be able to purchase 10-ride, 20-ride, and 40-ride passes to save money as well.

The Colorado Department of Transportation has been working for years to design and outline the details of this bus. As Colorado and its mountains continue to become more popular every year, this new bus option couldn’t come at a better time. Whether you are just visiting or a Colorado local, we suggest you give The Bustang a try at least once! The projected launch date is March of 2015.

Written By: Patrick Foley

Twin Tunnels Project on I-70 Now Complete and Open!

Back in April of this year, the Colorado Department of Transportation started a new project, the widening of the eastbound Twin Tunnels on Interstate I-70 in hopes to ease traffic congestion and create a smoother flow, especially during peak times, such as Sunday afternoons.  All summer long, drivers felt the construction pains as they were routed onto a temporary route at slow speeds while the work was being completed. The project was finally announced as complete late last week and was well-worth the trouble.  A third lane was added to this section of the road and through the tunnel, making it much easier for people to keep speeds up during this section of the drive, thanks to the extra lane and wider, more-open and well lit tunnel.  This new lane is hoped to shave up to 30 minutes from drive times this winter!

Although the third lane is now complete and open to the public, the project is still underway.  In 2015, CDOT plans to add a ‘peak shoulder lane’ that will run from the Empire Junction all the way to the Twin Tunnels at Idaho Springs that will become an express toll lane during peak travel times. The lane will be free to use during non-peak times. That project is expected to be complete by the end of summer 2015.   These major improvements are making it easier for everyone to enjoy a quick weekend getaway or vacation in the mountains!

 

Avoid I-70 Traffic Jams During Ski Season

Winter weather conditions and numerous travelers on the roads can sometimes clog up traffic on I-70 back and forth between Denver and the Mountains, especially on weekends and Holidays during ski season.  With a little planning and traffic watching, it can be easy to avoid the traffic jam and spend more time on the slopes, instead of the highway.

Winterize Your Vehicle
Your vehicle makes a huge difference in your travel experience to the mountains.  Be sure you have a vehicle with good tires, 4-wheel or all-wheel drive, working windshield wipers and finally a full tank of wiper fluid.  Even if the going is slow, a well-equipped vehicle will allow you to move with the flow of traffic without having to worry about sliding off the road or not being able to see the car in front of you.  You might even think about placing a sandbag or bag of kitty litter in the trunk to add more weight- it’s also nice to have on hand in case you get stuck anywhere to use for traction!

Leave Early… Very Early
Although 5 am may seem early, it’s a sure way to beat the interstate traffic crowds, both going to and from the mountains.  The early bird gets the worm… or in this case the fresh powder and open roads!

Leave Later in the Day… Have Dinner, Hit the Hot Tubs, etc.
Enjoy another day on the slopes and finish up your last day with an early dinner, happy hour, or one last trip to the hot tubs.  Typically the traffic clears up later in the afternoon or early evening, but you just have to time it right.  Have fun hanging out and be sure to keep an eye on CDOT’s website for traffic updates and to view live cameras or you can even sign up for traffic text alerts!

Stay an Extra Night
SummitCove.com can offer amazing last minute deals for adding an extra night if your property is available.  This way you can squeeze in an extra day of skiing, hot-tubbing and relaxing before you hit the road. Leave early Monday morning for a nice quiet drive, sans traffic.  If the weather is bad, wait it out an extra day to see if things will clear up.

Take an Alternate Route
 If you really need to get back to Denver quickly, think about taking an alternate route.   Head West on I-70, getting off on the Copper exit, go through Leadville and Buena Vista, and down 285 back to Denver.