As holiday travelers mire in Labor Day traffic between Monument and Castle Rock this weekend, they can celebrate an imminent end to the madness.
Gov. John Hickenlooper and other Colorado business and political leaders gathered on Monument Hill on Thursday to ceremoniously break ground for the widening of 18 miles of narrow freeway known as the “Gap.”
The Gazette’s editorial board began clamoring for widening of I-25 as early as 2008. Critics called us obsessed, like the crazy uncle babbling to himself in the corner as everyone ignores him.
We brought our concerns to Hickenlooper during his first run for governor in 2010. He didn’t think we were crazy. Instead, the candidate promised to move heaven and earth — if elected — to begin improving the highway. He would fight to add lanes between Woodmen Road in Colorado Springs and Baptist Road in Monument.
Partly on a basis of that commitment, The Gazette endorsed him. Hickenlooper called us shortly after assuming office in 2011, eager to meet with the board and announce good news. He had scrounged together reserve funds to widen the highway while contractors were hungry on the heels of the Great Recession.
Hickenlooper — working with the Pikes Peak Regional Council of Governments, city government and others — delivered. Work began that year.
When Hickenlooper sought re-election in 2014, we wanted more. The editorial board asked if he would widen the rest of the highway, from Monument to Castle Rock, if re-elected. He looked us in the eyes and smiled. He answered in the affirmative, then shook on it.
With Thursday’s groundbreaking, Hickenlooper delivers again on a transportation promise. Work begins Tuesday.
Thank you, Gov. Hickenlooper.
The highway work has been met with consternation by Coloradans who don’t want new lanes controlled by tolls.
Don’t let tolls kill the buzz. In many ways, this will be good for consumers.
Toll lanes create an advantage for commuters and other travelers who cannot afford to miss a flight or a meeting. Those with the greatest need to get someplace on time are given the option to buy their way out of traffic. Others have no obligation to pay the toll yet benefit from traffic moving out of free lanes and into toll lanes.
All new expenses add up, but a study by Colorado’s High-Performance Transportation Enterprise estimates the tolls will average $2.25 for traveling all 18 miles of a lane. If getting there on time matters, give up a latte and pay the toll.
More capacity on I-25 means more than mere convenience. Improved mobility between Denver and Colorado Springs will generate economic development that benefits all. Goods will move faster between Colorado’s two largest markets. When commuting between the state’s two largest cities gets easier, people have more options in deciding where to live.
Most important, these improvements are likely to make the highway safer. Less congestion means less stop-and-go traffic, which reduces the chance of collisions.
Take heart this weekend while sitting in traffic. Soon the wait will end, and the “Gap” will be no more.
The Gazette editorial board