CDOT Express Lanes Deliver Operational Improvements

March 28, 2016 - Metro Denver Colorado/CDOT Region 1 - I-70 Mountain, US 36 and I-25 Express Lanes reduce congestion and let travelers choose their move

DENVER — The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) and the High Performance Transportation Enterprise (HPTE) announced today that drivers can benefit from the operational improvements on Express Lane corridors. Since last summer, CDOT opened Express Lanes to provide reliable travel times on US 36, the I-70 Mountain corridor and on North I-25. Express Lanes can offer travelers choices such as biking, carpooling, transit and toll-paying options.

“CDOT knows from experience that we can’t build our way out of congestion,” said Shailen Bhatt, CDOT Executive Director. “Express Lanes offer Coloradans choices in how they travel and are also delivering improvements in these critical corridors that benefit all lanes and all users.”

I-70 Mountain Express Lane

The 13-mile eastbound Express Lane runs from Empire through Idaho Springs and opened mid-December 2015. Prior to its opening, an analysis by the data-research firm INRIX ranked this stretch as among the worst in the nation. Since the opening, the I-70 Mountain Express Lane has been delivering much-needed capacity to this corridor during peak periods. Operational improvements in the mountain corridor helped travelers avoid congestion during several record-setting traffic counts in the high country on the Jan. 2 holiday weekend. Also, comparing travel times in this corridor on the Martin Luther King holiday in 2012 (pre-construction) to 2016, when the Mountain Express Lane was in use, drivers saw the following improvements:

  • Martin Luther King Holiday 2016 at 4 p.m. had travel times around 17 minutes  in all lanes compared to 23 minutes in 2012; reducing travel times by approximately six minutes or 26 percent for travelers.

  • Martin Luther King Holiday 2016 after 7:30 p.m. was 14-16 minutes for all lanes compared to 17-33 minutes in 2012; reducing travel times from three to 17 minutes as much as 52 percent, for travelers.  

"CDOT is committed to using innovative solutions to meet the challenges faced with our state’s growing population and limited financial resources,” Bhatt said. “We will continue to maximize operations, including using the best technologies, to improve safety and efficiency on these critical recreational and commuting corridors.”  

US 36 Express Lanes

CDOT, HPTE and Plenary Roads Denver, the private-sector project partner, opened the first phase of the multimodal US 36 Express Lanes from Louisville to Federal Boulevard in July 2015.

Also at that time, CDOT introduced the switchable HOV transponder to allow drivers a carpool or toll option in one pass, and more than 73,000 transponders have been distributed to date. These switchable transponders give carpoolers the ease of traveling for free or choosing to pay a toll, when carpooling is not an option.

Since last summer, carpoolers using the switchable HOV transponders have saved almost $1.3 million dollars in tolls on the US 36 and Central I-25 Express Lanes.  

US 36 users are seeing improvements including the Diverging Diamond Interchange in Superior/Louisville, a newly constructed roadway and bridges, and improved travel times. Comparing a weekday westbound travel day in September 2011 to 2015, US 36 Express Lanes users experience more consistent travel times and speeds for all lanes:

  • 2011 at 7:40 a.m.: speeds were 35 mph

  • 2015 at 7:40 a.m.: speeds were 45 mph and 29 percent faster than 2011.

  • 2011 at 6 p.m.: speeds were 50 mph

  • 2015 at 6 p.m.: speeds were above 60 mph and 20 percent faster than 2011.

The final stretch of the US 36 Express Lanes project, from Table Mesa to Superior/Louisville will begin toll collection on March 30. The 18-mile bikeway from Boulder to Westminster opened March 1 and connects cyclists all the way to Denver.  

North I-25 Express Lanes

In March 2016, CDOT and HPTE opened the North I-25 Express Lanes, from 120th Avenue to the existing Central I-25 Express Lanes in Denver, which ends at US 36, for testing. Travelers will be able to drive in the lanes for free and learn how to use them while toll collection is waived during the testing period. These Express Lanes offer free HOV/carpooling, transit and toll-paying option for users. Tolling will start in early summer. All travelers are expected to benefit from the opening of these lanes to reduce travel times in this critical corridor connecting the north metro area to Denver and I-70.

About Express Lanes: Express Lanes increase roadway capacity and help to manage congestion on the highways. The use of toll pricing during peak travel times reduces delays, manages congestion and maintains reliable travel times. Express Lanes currently are open between 120th Avenue and US 36 on North I-25 and, US 36 from Denver to Boulder and on the I-70 Mountain Express Lane. For more information, visit To get an ExpressToll account and pass, visit

About the High Performance Transportation Enterprise (HPTE): The HPTE operates as a government-owned, independent business within CDOT. It searches out innovative ways to finance projects to help Colorado fulfill its commitment to increase travel choices through options that include Express Lanes, transit, biking, walking and carpooling. For more information, visit