I-70 mountain express lane fines start for safety violations

Colorado on Friday will begin fining drivers $75 for using the Interstate 70 express lanes in the mountains when they’re closed or weaving in and out to get around traffic, among other violations.

During a new safety enforcement program’s month-long grace period, more than 5,600 drivers received warnings in the mail after they were detected using an automated system of cameras and sensors, the Colorado Department of Transportation says. Now drivers who receive notices will have to pay the fine, which increases to $150 after 20 days.

“The number of warnings issued during the grace period is extremely concerning,” CDOT spokesman Tim Hoover said in a news release. “We don’t want to see so many people get fines — we just want roadway users to follow the express lane rules so everybody can get to their destinations safely.”

The express toll lanes occupy the narrow left shoulder on each side of I-70 along a 13-mile corridor from Empire to east of Idaho Springs. They are open only during peak travel periods, typically weekends and holidays, and revert to shoulders at other times under an agreement with federal regulators.

Data provided by CDOT shows roughly 95% of warnings issued since June 21 were for weaving into the lanes between toll points, with the rest cited mostly for using them outside of operating hours. Just two warnings cited drivers for operating oversized vehicles — those with more than two axles or which exceed 25 feet in length — in the express lanes.

CDOT’s stats show the most frequently cited vehicles during the warning period were the Toyota 4Runner SUV and two pickup trucks, the Dodge Ram and the Ford F-150. Other trucks and SUVs were well-represented, though luxury models also showed up in smaller numbers — including a single Bentley Continental GTC.

About 60% of violations occurred in the eastbound express lane, CDOT data shows. About four in five vehicles were registered in Colorado; the highest numbers of out-of-state vehicles came from Texas, followed by California, Florida and Utah.

State lawmakers gave CDOT more authority to crack down on express lane violations last year. It’s making plans to expand the program to other express lane corridors by the end of 2024.

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