CDOT to ticket drivers using I-70 mountain express lanes outside of peak hours

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Westbound traffic piles up on I-70 approaching the Eisenhower Tunnel on June 25, 2021.

Drivers who use the I-70 Mountain Express Lanes in Clear Creek County when they’re closed will face a new $250 fine starting this August. 

Gov. Jared Polis signed House Bill 22-1074 on Tuesday, which allows the Colorado Department of Transportation to collect tolls via camera when the lanes are open and issue fines to drivers when they are closed. 

Running between Empire and Idaho Springs, the 13-mile lanes are used as additional paths for traffic during busy travel periods, such as on holidays and heavy ski-traffic days. Most of the time they function as a shoulder for emergency access. 

CDOT opened the eastbound express lane in 2015, while the westbound lane opened last year. Nearly 50,000 drivers used the eastbound lane illegally in 2020, according to state data. 

Cameras along the highway will help enforce the new rule, which also bans semi-trucks and vehicles with tractor-trailers from using the lanes. 

Drivers who break the new law will receive a ticket in the mail, similar to a red light camera ticket or toll violation in other parts of the state. 

Federal highway regulations limit the number of days CDOT can open the lanes to around 100 days each year in each direction, due to their size. The agency constructed the lanes on existing highway surface, which means they’re narrower than typical highway lanes. 
The lanes have had some success easing traffic congestion, according to state reviews. CDOT and bill sponsors argue the new policy is necessary for safety reasons.