All your roads now belong to us

Do you remember when driving on roads was free?  In case you are reading this and thinking ‘but, they are free!’ – I challenge you to bookmark this and come back in 5 years.

Almost every significant current, past, and future highway improvements are ALL toll roads.  I resent the shit out of this, because I feel they are sneaking this past us.  Who are ‘they’?  You know… ‘the Man’, ‘Whitey’, Corporate America… whatever.

First, some background.   Denver is growing like nuts.  We were always growing like nuts, but then the pot thing happened.  We need wider and faster roads.  We need them bad, and we need them twenty years ago.  Hell, I was writing about this 10 years ago.  Proof!  So… we talked about it, at a cost of studies running 100K a year.   No one could agree.  Well, once thing everyone agreed about – don’t widen the roads.  Why not?

Widening is a temporary solution.  Plus, it’s ugly.  No one moved to Colorado to look at more roads.  Plus… and this is a biggie… it is more pollution.  Denver has a very serious pollution problem, one of the biggest in US.  It’s a temperature inversion that causes the pollution to just get stuck over town.  You call it the ‘brown cloud’, though.    Well, we solved all of it.   Wait… none of it.

We widened the roads… the thing nobody wanted.   BUT.. we only widened a really small portion.  Even better?  You have to pay to use them.  Yes, ALL of our new road widening projects are pay per use.  Our state is only building toll roads now.  We needed about a 25 mile relief project on the i-70 in the mountains.  Instead… we build a 2 mile solution.   That, again, you have to pay to use.  Even more odd?  They didn’t widen the road… they just took down the breakdown safety median to charge people to use it for passing.  So, you can no longer safety breakdown in Idaho Springs, but you can pay to unsafely pass folks on the left.  Just like NO ONE asked for.

So…  that was fun, right?  Let’s now make ALL roads toll roads in Colorado.  For a while, they built a cool extra lane spill way in North Denver on the i-25 (near the Speer exits) to relieve traffic when necessary.  Oh, it’s still there… but it’s a toll lane now

Things brings us to the MUCH needed expansion of C-470.  Two lanes each way simply wasn’t nearly enough.  Ok, excellent idea, and thank god.  You have seen the construction if you have driven on the C-470 for the last year.  I had a nasty hunch they were going to pull it again.  Did some research, and they did.  Those extra help lanes will be toll lanes.

The project will add one express toll lane in both the eastbound and westbound directions from I-25 to Kipling. Additionally, one express toll lane will be added westbound from I-25 to Lucent Boulevard and another one will be added eastbound from Broadway to I-25. This would double the width of the highway in some spots.

But wait… there is more!  You don’t even know about this one, yet.  But, they are expanding i-25 from Castle Rock to Fountain.  Again, this is a good thing.  As that stretch drops from 3 lanes to 2 lanes, it becomes a choke point.  See, the government is looking at for you. YAY!

State commission OKs $250 million to widen I-25 from Monument to Castle Rock

Wait… no.  they aren’t going to charge for that, too, are they?  Oh yes they are:

These ‘solutions’ suck for a number of reasons.  They don’t cut down on traffic or pollution.  In fact, they encourage it.  It also discriminates against working class people who can’t afford the privilege of getting to work on time… hence the great and dismissive term ‘Lexus Lanes’.   Lastly, this construction sucks, for EVERYONE.  Even though everyone won’t get to use them.  This is a scary trend that surely sees no end.

Now, unlike Mitch McConnell… I am not here to just insult everyone else’s idea with no solutions.  I have an idea.  it is expensive, but obviously so are all of these.  More light rail.  It holds more people, adds no pollution, is immune to traffic, and is immune to weather.   If for no other reason, support it to piss off Jon Caldara.  He is the right wing nutjob who is MILITANTLY against ALL public transportation.  He has also taken great strides to stop as much of it as humanly possible.

In his latest piece for the Post, Caldara compares state transportation investments in transit and biking to cancer.


Friday Fives – stop feeding your congressman bacon

I don’t trust people who . . .. 

Litter.  It doesn’t just show contempt for nature, but for fellow mankind.  I have mentioned this before, but since we are here I’ll say it again.  I notice people who litter are Republicans.  Yes, I know… a sweeping generalization.  That’s my bag.  Anyhow… you don’t have to take my word for it.  Instead, I ask you this… just remember that comment/observation.  You will see that I was Correct.

I just love people who . . .

Who love and respect and honor those who are at lower stations in their lives.  Meaning… don’t be a dick to the garbage man, or the maid, or the waitress… or the bum.  There is some wisdom in this classic dating advice for women “A guy who is sweet to you, but an asshole to the waitress is an asshole”.  This speaks volumes.  Here it is said again by a mind brighter than mine – be kind whenever possible.  It is always possible.” Dalai Lama

Sometimes, I just get so depressed over . . . 

How EVERYONE hates govt and Congress… yet EVERYONE re-elects their Congressfolk at a rate of over 90% every election.  Do you think your calls to Congress, and letters, and aggressive Facebook rants mean dick to your Congressperson?  Not when no matter how much you loathe them… you will still vote for them.

Another analogy (sorry, but it’s how I best communicate and think) – imagine you are training a puppy.  He gets on the counter, and you HATE that.  You tell EVERYONE how you hate that, including the dog.  You sent letters to the dog, and gleefully participate in public polls about how much you dislike your dog getting on the counter.  YET… each time he does it, you give him some bacon.  Not only are you not effectively punishing the dog.  You are rewarding him.  Your vote is bacon.  Stop feeding your Congressperson bacon, especially when they are bad dogs.

Sorry, it’s a bit of dramatic hyperbole to compare the public servants of Congress to dogs.  We can all agree dogs are much better people.  As Groucho Marx once said “outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend.  Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.”

It’s just not normal to . . .

for disenfranchised Americans to think a real estate developer would fight for the poor.  I FULLY get that the other choices sucked ass… and I voted for neither of them.  I also fully get that for poor and disenfranchised voters (meaning anyone who is not a white male over 40)… ANYTHING was worth trying.

I think  . . .  is the new normal.

toll roads.  Here is Denver, we have a few major highways that run through town.  They have ALL been moved to toll roads for expansion.  The new and super important and badly needed C470 run from I-25 to the foothills is getting new lanes.  they are in the widening process now.  Just googled it and found out those will be toll lanes.  So, a better to commute to work coming soon… unless you make under $10 an hour, or have kids.  the other side of the C-470 is the E-470.   Toll road, the whole thing that loops around Denver… always been a toll road and always will be.

That shitty stretch of I70 that always backs up around Idaho Springs?  Finally expanded… to toll lanes.

and just yesterday, I got a survey about widening of the I-25 from Castle Rock to Monument.  They are widening it.  Via toll lanes.  There is SO much to say about this, I could really do a post blog on this issue.  I won’t, but I will point out this – its likely our own fault.  Whenever the govt asks for money for roads (or anything)… people hear ‘taxes’ and vote no.  Always, every time.  Same reason schools are broke.

Oh, and I have written about this.  Bitching about traffic isn’t exactly groundbreaking social satire… but I see issues and I address them.  Hopefully, with a good sense of humor and some honest research on the issue as well.  Start here, then go here, then go here.  Note how nobody and no time in any of these studies recommended toll lanes.  Here is another reason why they suck (besides being elitist and unfair to the working poor) – they are still vulnerable to same traffic jams, accidents, and foul weather.   My suggestion is light rail.  Roughly the same ecological footprint (for digging and up and paving over things)… but is weather proof and traffic proof.

ok, one last dig.  When it’s done, the few who can afford it (myself included, I admit) get to zip past the poor people in traffic.  In the meantime, EVERYONE gets to live with this for 3 years… including the people who will never get to use it.


Let’s have a study pt 3

Update Oct 2014 down below ****


In order for this to make sense, start here.   Then, here.  Ok, here today is part three.  They have finally agreed on a solution.  Apparently, there was a fourth consideration I wasn’t aware of.  In order to ease congestion on the i-70, they are going to charge a toll to use it.  It will be $5 a pop to use the freeway to get into the mountains.  Why?  Lot’s of reasons.  One is that by charging such a toll, less people will use it.  Indeed, congestion is an issue, so their is limited virtue in that thought process.

The other reason is to raise money for the widening.  Yes, apparently we are widening and tolling.  Basically, everyone loses.  See, we have no money for the freeway fixins.  I mean, on it’s face it makes sense.  Except:

What the heck are my tax dollars paying for?  Is this not now a law to keep poor people from camping?  Is this not an elitist and short term solution?  What about people who commute every day?  Is this designed just to punish tourists?  I thought that is what hotel and rental car taxes were for.   This solution is stupid, and angers me.  I don’t want to pay a toll to use my mountains and roads.  Also, I don’t want my mountains paved over with roads.  Nobody does, that is why we call them the Rocky Mountains… not the Rocky Mountain Roads.  Maybe Coors should get rid of their current logo and just have a stretch of pavement as their icon.

Let’s say you widen the road from two lanes each way to three lanes each way.  That is 33% more traffic.  You see that, I guess.  I see 33% more pollution, plus an absolute dreaded ten year construction cycle marring the mountains.  Oh, and a bonus $5 per way levee to sit in construction for the next ten years.  Right now, we need an obstructionist!  John Caldera, where are you?

*** update Oct 2014

It’s been 6 or 7 years, and not much has happened.  Well, they tried metering.  Unlike assholes like me, who sit on their couch and decry the efforts of those trying solutions. It was a great idea.  It was counter intuitive and most definitely out of the box thinking.  It worked, but not nearly to the level they needed it to.  I totally respect the effort, though.  In the 17 years I have been here, it is the most anyone has done about anything… except studies.  I respect the CDOT like hell for not just sitting around and waiting for someone to hand them 200 million bucks.

The other update is this; someone recently suggested banning big rigs from the freeway.  That is dumb, short sighted… and (most importantly) mean.  The trucker’s aren’t the problem.  If they were, it wouldn’t just be on Sunday afternoons heading East back to Denver.  It’s the skiers.  I am not blaming the skiers.  Well, actually, I am.  It is the skiers.  However, they are super duper critical to the success of the mountain towns economies.  To ban skiers is as dumb as banning trucks.

Last Winter (that of 2013) was a breaking point… to me at least.  It became a 10 hour struggle to make it the 11 miles from Dillon, CO (the first town at the base of i-70 once you cross the tunnel) to the tunnel.  Ten hours… in a snowstorm.  Does your car have fuel for ten hours?  Do you pack ten hours worth of food when you go skiing?  You can’t turn your car off, either, to save fuel.  You need the heat.  Last fall we took a trip and got stuck in that, and ended up taking the most terrifying detour around I have ever experienced as a driver.  Knowing it was going to be shitty, I bought $50 worth of jerky.  It was a lifesaver.

I want to clarify something.  I am not bitching.  Well, I was.  I am older and wiser now.  I love Colorado.  I love the mountains.  I love my truck.  I was reminded of this recently when I saw a freeway sign in Los Angeles.  It said “you are not in traffic, you are the traffic”.  So, I don’t want to come off as a nimby.  I am absolutely a part of the problem here, being a driver.  This is why I have a vested interest in making things better.  It’s selfish.

Here is the big concern, very soon it is going to be deadly.  Someone is going to run our of medication stuck on that road.  Once the backup starts, you can’t get off.  You are packed in.  You can’t pull of the road or even turn around.  They can’t get an ambulance or a wrecker to you.  Even if you called 911 they could not get a medivac helicopter to you, because this happens during snow storms.

I know no one wants to think about it, or spend that much, but I have the solution.  It isn’t cheap or easy or maybe even fair.  It will solve everything, and works long term.  I said it ten years ago, and I’ll say it again.  I am just waiting for you yahoos to to figure out that I was correct.   Monorail.