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How Colorado made tolling work

Posted on April 25, 2017
Written by Andrew Macklin

Aurora, Colorado mayor Steve Hogan is no stranger to the issue of road tolls.

Hogan, who will be speaking at the upcoming Transport Futures Road Pricing Leadership Summit in Toronto on May 12, has spent part of the last three decades working both on and with major tolling projects in the Denver area. Before becoming the mayor of the Denver suburb that is home to more than 350,000, Hogan was executive director of both the E-470 Public Highway Authority and the Northwest Parkway Authority. Both roadways are part of the Denver-area ‘beltway’, a system of four roads linking together to allow travellers to bypass the state capital.

For residents in the Denver Metropolitan Area, tolls are a long accepted reality. The introduction of toll roads has provided that much needed by-pass of the city, as well as a high-quality alternative to roadways that already exist. According to Hogan, stakeholders throughout the region looked at the rapid growth and development of the region and quickly adopted an ‘all of the above’ approach to transportation. That approach has led to the adoption of HOV and HOT lanes, straight toll roads, expansion of existing highways, light rail, bus rapid transit and commuter rail all within different segments of the region now sitting at more than 2.8 million people.

The growth of these solutions, including the adoption of toll highways and expressways, came from a recognition of the alternative, and how detrimental that could be for regional development.

“It really came from the base message that, if we rely on the federal government and the normal appropriation and approval process, it may take 20-25 years,” Hogan said. “And if we rely on the state government, it may take even longer because the state government has even less money than the federal government.”

The result was the ‘all of the above’ approach, borrowing the necessary funding to build new infrastructure and funding that build through the user-fee model.

But the ‘all of the above’ approach, according to Hogan, was only successful because it had the buy-in of all of the impacted municipalities. Under the state-led Public Highway Authority model, all municipalities have one vote, regardless of size, which encourages stronger consensus building. And when presented with the alternatives—vehicle congestion, longer travel times, and pollution—building a consensus became a priority amongst the municipal stakeholders.

Learn more about the Colorado solution, and how it could be applied to Canada’s largest municipalities, from Steve Hogan at the Road Pricing Leadership Summit. The Summit takes place Friday, May 12 at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel in Toronto. ReNew Canada is the media partner for the event.

For more details, or to register for the summit, visit www.transportfutures.ca/lead.

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