September 27, 2016 - Denver Metro Colorado/CDOT Region 1 - Express Lane Reduces Congestion, Improves Travel Times and Makes Travel Safer

DENVER – The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) and the High Performance Transportation Enterprise (HPTE) today announced that the I-70 Mountain Express Lane’s first summer season of operations delivered benefits to all eastbound travelers, across all lanes. With the Express Lane’s added capacity, the corridor had more consistent, faster speeds and reduced travel times for all lanes, including the general purpose lanes.

“Colorado’s population growth is putting demands on our existing transportation infrastructure. Express Lanes allow us to meet this demand by expanding capacity, reducing travel times and decreasing delays for entire corridors,” said David Spector, HPTE Director. “On nearly every Sunday this summer we saw more than 40,000 vehicles traveling eastbound along the I-70 Mountain corridor. Prior to the Express Lane, this would have meant stop and go traffic with long travel times and delays. Now, with the Express Lane, we were able to keep traffic moving to get people home faster and spend less time traveling in their car.”

All of CDOT’s Express Lanes corridors are seeing benefits, and mountain drivers are getting relief since the I-70 Mountain Express Lane opened mid-December 2015. The 13-mile eastbound Express Lane runs from Empire through Idaho Springs, and is open during high traffic volume times, such as holidays and weekends. This was the first summer season for the Express Lane in the corridor, which reduced the impact of heavy traffic helping businesses and residents for mountain communities.

“The eastbound Express Lane dramatically improved travel to, and throughout, our mountain communities despite a record year along the I-70 Mountain Corridor,” said Clear Creek County Commissioner Tim Mauck. “The Express Lane restores a quality of life to our residents to move more freely about our neighborhoods and creates a positive economic climate by enabling more reliable visitor access to our businesses.  The Express Lane is the first infrastructure improvement to substantially break up the logjam, and its success is undeniable.”

“During the summer months the Express Lane continued to provide much-needed reliability in this critical mountain corridor. Colorado Mountain Express utilizes the I-70 Mountain Express Lane to safely and efficiently provide our guests with more reliable transportation during peak travel days,” said John Dawsey, Vice President & General Manager of Colorado Mountain Express. “Our drivers continue to report that all eastbound I-70 travelers appear to be benefiting from the Express Lane.  This observation is in line with CDOT’s recent report of a 38 percent improvement in travel times.”

The I-70 Mountain Express Lane was open 29 days from May 30 through Sept. 5, 2016, capturing 8 percent of the traffic. The mountain corridor’s busiest day was Sunday, Aug. 7, with 48,400 vehicles in the eastbound lanes.

“The increased eastbound travel speeds on Sunday afternoons this summer clearly demonstrate the Mountain Express Lane is having a positive effect on I-70 travel,” said Margaret Bowes, I-70 Coalition Director. “It is an added bonus that, with some cars opting to take the Express Lane, those traveling in the general purpose lanes also benefited with significantly reduced travel times. The I-70 Coalition is pleased that CDOT will have more flexibility in utilizing that Express Lane moving forward.”

Summary of I-70 Mountain Express Lane’s First Summer Season:

  • Capacity:

    • Throughput increased by 14 percent

    • Corridor had 1.06 million vehicles compared to 993,500 in 2015

    • Express Lane captured 82,600 vehicles (8 percent of the total vehicles)

    • Peak day increased throughput by 4,200 vehicles per hour

  • Travel Times for Express Lanes:

    • Average travel time was 12.1 minutes (59 mph)

    • Peak hour travel speeds stayed above 40 mph and above 30 mph in GP lanes throughout the season

    • Fastest: 10.5 minutes (68 mph) on Saturday, July 9; GP lanes 11.5 minutes (62 mph)

    • Slowest: 16.1 minutes (44 mph) on Sunday, June 19 (Father’s Day); GP lanes 19.4 minutes (37 mph)

  • Travel times for General Purpose Lanes:

    • Improved by 38 percent

    • Peak Hour Season Average: 14 minutes (51 mph)

    • Fastest: 10.7 minutes (66 mph) on Saturday, Aug. 27

    • Slowest 21.1 minutes (34 mph) on Sunday, June 26

    • 2013-2015 Peak Hour Season Average: 22.4 minutes (32 mph)

      • Slowest: 80.4 minutes (9 mph)

      • Fastest: 11.9 minutes (60 mph)

  • Safety and Incidents:

    • 14 total corridor incidents:

      • 4 in Express Lane; 3 straddled Express Lane and GP lanes; and 7 in GP lanes

      • Averaged 18 minutes between an incident reported and cleared

      • Time to clear corridor back-ups substantially improved

  • Toll Rates typically $4 to $6

  • Additional Results and Findings:

    • In a worst-day comparison between 2015 and 2016, travel times on the Mountain Express Lane corridor improved by 21 minutes.

    • Alleviated congestion on Frontage Road and improved travel time between Georgetown and US 40.

    • Summer season throughput increased.

    • When compared to winter, the Express Lane use was lower on Saturday, but much higher on Sunday.

  • Comparing Labor Day traffic from 2012 (pre-construction) to 2016:

    • 2012: 40,500 vehicles per day with speeds consistently below 20 mph

    • 2016: 46,300 vehicles per day with speeds that were predominantly above 45 mph and occasionally dipped to 30 mph

● NOTE: See CDOT's maps for 2012-2016 Labor Day speed comparisons.

CDOT reminds drivers that the I-70 Mountain Express Lane is only open weekends and holidays. When the Express Lane is not open, roadway signage indicates it is closed and is used as a shoulder for emergency purposes.

Learn more about Express Lanes at and more on the High Performance Transportation Enterprise (HPTE) at