Westbound I-70 Mountain Express Lane Opens for Testing

News Release

July 30, 2021 - Drivers can use lane with tolls waived during peak travel periods before toll collection begins later in 2021

CLEAR CREEK COUNTY - The Westbound I-70 Mountain Express Lane opened for  testing today. In appreciation for the public’s patience through construction on this busy corridor, tolls will be waived while system components are tested and drivers are encouraged to use this lane during the testing period. Toll collection is expected to begin later this year. 

“I want to thank the communities in Clear Creek County and Idaho Springs as well as  all drivers who depend on this corridor for their patience during the construction of this important project that will help ease congestion and greatly improve safety on this vital roadway,” said CDOT Executive Director Shoshana Lew. “Whether returning from the mountains or traveling to them, motorists now have the option of taking an Express Lane during peak travel times on the mountain corridor. This will provide a more reliable trip and help improve travel times for everyone.” 

“With the opening of the peak period Express Lanes in both the east and westbound directions, our next focus is significant transportation improvements to the I-70 Floyd Hill area, with rebuilt bridges, improved movement, and new micro-transit that will be scaled to utilize existing peak period shoulder lanes.” 

The Westbound Mountain Express Lane spans about 12 miles from the Veterans Memorial Tunnels in Idaho Springs to the US 40/Empire interchange. Like the Eastbound Express Lane, this lane will be open only on weekends and holidays as peak traffic volumes warrant. At all other times, this lane will serve as a shoulder for vehicle breakdowns and other emergencies.   

While all major construction activities are complete, there will be some work done along the corridor to test the tolling systems, finish landscaping and other project details.

In addition to the new Express Lane, the project constructed nearly four miles of retaining walls, improved pedestrian access on the CO 103 bridge and beneath I-70 near the Colorado Boulevard exit in Idaho Springs, installed about 80,000 linear feet of conduit to house fiber for the tolling system and other communications, added several safety pull-out areas along westbound and eastbound I-70, and stabilized rock slopes along the highway to improve safety along the I-70 corridor.

When tolling begins later this year, all travelers can continue using the general purpose lanes for free or drive the Express Lane during peak travel periods for a more reliable travel time in exchange for paying a toll. Studies show that on CDOT’s Express Lanes corridors, travelers in all lanes (including the regular lanes) see time savings of anywhere from 20-50%. 

Express Lane tolling will apply to all vehicles who use the Express Lane on this corridor. There will not be a free HOV, carpool or motorcycle option. 

ExpressToll pass saves money

To save money on tolls, drivers are encouraged to get an ExpressToll pass prior to toll commencement. ExpressToll saves money each time, at least 40% savings compared to the pricing without a pass. Drivers using the lane without an ExpressToll account will pay an additional license plate tolling fee.

ExpressToll passes are used on all Express Lane and tolling facilities in Colorado. Please note that the Switchable HOV Transponder will not provide an HOV discount on the I-70 Mountain Express Lanes, even when positioned in the “HOV” mode.

How the Express Lane works

  • The lane is open during peak travel periods only, such as on weekends and holidays. Electronic signs will alert drivers to when the lane is open.
  • Drivers must NOT use the Express Lane when it is closed.  It functions as an emergency shoulder when closed.
  • No trucks, vehicles or trailers with more than two axles or longer than 25 feet are allowed on the Express Lane.
  • Do not cross the solid yellow line; enter and exit at the designated entrances and exits marked with a dashed yellow line.
  • Tolling on the Westbound I-70 Mountain Express Lane is waived for testing until later this year.
  • Once tolling begins, the Express Lane will be tolled for everyone, including motorcycles and carpools. Overhead signs will indicate toll prices. Tolls will be collected through ExpressToll account or License Plate Toll.
  • Toll collection continues on the Eastbound I-70 Mountain Express Lane. 

For more information, view the Westbound I-70 Mountain Express Lane page or learn more on the Project background webpage.

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 coloradohpte.com.