All Your Roads are Belong to Us

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I am concerned about the growth of toll lanes as our solution to everything for crowded highways. Looking back in the last 20 years, everything (outside of T-rex) has been… and will be… a toll road.

For years the CDOT has been working on discussion plans to deal with widening the roads to accommodate our growth.  It’s not an easy process.  It is expensive, and nobody wants more pavement or more.  I fully admit it is a thankless task.  I have been writing about this for years.  Start here from 2007,  then this one shortly after,  and this may have been my last entry for years.  I won’t tell you what they suggested.  I can tell you what none of them ever suggested.  “Let’s make the roads bigger and wider.   OH, and then use public money for it.  THEN… even better, no one can use them but the rich.

It turned out CDOT’s solution for everything is toll lanes.  More taxes, more pollution, more congestion, more smog, and endless construction.  BUT… just for the few who are willing to pay a lot to use them.  Get that there are no easy answers, but in my first 3 pieced linked above, I mentioned there was lots of surveys and public input.  I mocked the process, joking we would die of analysis paralysis before anyone agreed.  So, they went rogue with out us… and just sold our roads out.

They did the same with the E-470 as the Boulder Turnpike.  They initially said the costs were to pay for the construction, and in time it would be free.  Best thing… it WORKED.   We needed the road, it was subsidized by private money, and paid off when it was completed.  In time, it would be free to the general public after they paid it. Totally fair idea.   Except, they then announced it will never be paid off.  I learned to accept it.  It really is a fine road.  On top of it, because it is so expensive.. it is always a fast drive.

Next issue was the i-70 around Idaho Springs. I think the biggest issue there was the choke point from 3 to 2 lanes.  So, they widened it.  This is great, and we can all agree how important that was.    EXCEPT… the expansion is a toll road.    Sorry to the million of citizens who can’t afford the privilege?  I used to travel that stretch a lot, and it hasn’t even helped that much.

This year, we get to see some much needed love for C-470.  This may be the most valuable project of all the ones that came before.  An expansion to C470 is fully worth the epic hassle of the traffic problems while we work on it.  Then… it hit me.  I bet these aholes are probably building toll lanes.  Sadly, I was correct.  According to these numbers, the job will be about 1.3 million.  CDot (us taxpayers) will cover half of that. A private company kicks  the other half.  Yet, it looks like the private company gets to make the project toll roads.

The newest development is the expansion of I25 south between Castle Rock and Monument.  Spoiler alert > toll lanes.

I sadly, and sincerely can’t even remember a recent large scale road project that wasn’t just for toll roads.  I have much more to say, but the gist is all here.

This is an issue I want to push hard, via lobbying, phone calls, social media… ANYTHING to get this this to the forefront.  I don’t think people know the extent of it.  These deals look like an offer cooked up by Mr Wonderful from Shark Tank.  “I’ll give you the 500K you are asking for, until you pay me about 5 million.  Oh, and I wanted 51% of ownership in your company.  Lastly, after the original 5 million is returned to me for my risk… I get an additional 50K a year in perpetuity.  All this guy is missing is a monacle

I am mostly frustrated because I feel this is all being snuck past us.

Since you can see I am clearly passionate about this emerging story… I would be happy and honored to write more on it.  Maybe it’s a column.  You also welcome to interview me in person and/or over email.

Lastly… a few big pet peeves.  The ‘Lexas lanes’. are elitist and exclusionary.  I am an employer, and my folks make around $14 an hour.   EVERY SINGLE agent I talked to said they would never use it.  It isn’t just too expensive for lower waged folks… they all said they resent the concept of having to pay to use a road.

Plus, none of his eliminates traffic.  In fact, each of these solutions encourage more drivers.  That is just more pollution for our dreaded ‘blown cloud’ over Denver

Another think that pisses me off is even if I don’t use these lanes (and I won’t, out of principle.)   Well, all of us set to spend that years driving and forth in construction every day.  I get roads are very expensive, and I would not be surprised to learn that voters routinely vote against any bond measures put forth to fix the roads

I feel like this is being snuck by us, and that is what drives me crazy.

I can also sadly assume John Caldera has been deeply involved in making sure no citizen is ever given access public transportation of any kind.

I expect to have a lot more to say about this.  so… let’s just call this entry part 1.  March 2018

  • I sent this to the paper.  They never responded.  So, I offer to you, instead.



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.