Sponsor kills bill for I-70 toll
DENVER, Colorado ” Drivers won’t have to worry about paying a $5 toll on Interstate 70 this year.
In the face of opposition from mountain communities and others who drive the congested roadway, Senate Minority Leader Andy McElhany asked lawmakers to kill the proposal by postponing a vote on the measure until May 26, after the Legislature ends its regular session.
McElhany, R-Colorado Springs, acknowledged that freshman Sen. Dan Gibbs, D-Silverthorne, had counted enough votes to defeat the toll (Senate Bill 213).
McElhany said he had expected to get more support from people outside the mountain corridor who were tired of backups on the state’s main east-west highway.
Usually lawmakers who want a measure to die without a vote ask to delay a vote until the day after the session is set to end. This year, that’s May 8. But McElhany said he picked May 26 ” Memorial Day ” because he wants drivers stuck in holiday traffic to think about his bill.
“When you’re sitting in that traffic jam, just think of the $5 you could have paid to be out of it,” McElhany said jokingly.
Mountain lawmakers like Gibbs and Sen. Jack Taylor, R-Steamboat Springs, were miffed that McElhany didn’t reach out to them before introducing the bill. Others opposed it because they didn’t think drivers should have to pay a toll on a road already built with taxpayer dollars. Some Democrats also didn’t want to send a Republican toll bill to Gov. Bill Ritter, who has so far failed to come up with more money for highways.
Some opponents seemed disappointed they didn’t get a chance to bash the proposal in public.
Sen. Steve Ward, R-Littleton, said he had prepared a speech on taxation without representation that he wasn’t able to use.
“Imagine if the British Parliament had laid over the Stamp Act for a few years. We’d still be flying the Union Jack,” Ward said.
Sen. Chris Romer, D-Denver, who sponsored another bill that would have charged an unspecified toll that varied according to the time of day, said lawmakers still have to come up with a way to pay for a backlog of construction projects.
“This conversation will continue,” said Romer, who said he was hit with ski poles by skiers who objected to his proposal earlier this year.
Gibbs acknowledged that the state needs to find a way to pay for transportation but he said lawmakers should look at the needs of the whole state, not just focus on one corridor.
A panel appointed by Ritter concluded the state needs to find at least $500 million a year to keep the state’s highway system running. Ritter proposed but then abandoned a $100 per vehicle fee to raise the money. Lawmakers are still considering pursuing a $6-a-day visitor fee for renting a car or staying in a hotel or motel to raise more money for roads.
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