Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by the Collegian or its editorial board.
Reliability. It’s a word I think of often in my role as Mayor Pro Tem of Fort Collins. It’s the quality of being trustworthy or performing consistently well. We look for this trait in our friends, coworkers and elected officials. We should expect the same of our transportation system to safely take us where we need to go every day.
A safe, reliable transportation system is critical to our quality of life. Yet, for many years, we’ve been dealing with sub-par conditions on I-25 in northern Colorado, which sees more vehicles on the road every year. In the 40 years I’ve lived in Fort Collins, our population has increased twofold. Our university has grown, stimulating our economy, attracting the tech industry and innovative manufacturers, and now our region has one of the fastest population growths in the state.
Unfortunately, our transportation infrastructure has not kept up and we’ve been dealing with the potholes and congestion. The good news is our time has come. The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) has a vision for implementing improvements for the North I-25 corridor and our local city and county governments have been working with them to find funding to accelerate these critical projects. Starting early next year, CDOT will begin work on the much-anticipated North I-25 Express Lanes: Johnstown to Fort Collins project. We’ll soon have an Express Lane in both directions of I-25, in addition to the existing free, general purpose lanes.
The Express Lanes will bring congestion relief with added capacity and mobility choices that include free travel for carpoolers and transit, in addition to the toll-paying options. The bottom line is that we can’t build our way out of congestion, as we’ve seen elsewhere in the country and even in our own state. Research shows new general purpose lanes fill up just like those beside them once they are built. Also, the toll revenue will help to pay for this added infrastructure and the on-going operations and maintenance costs.
Some people will choose to use the Express Lanes because they value their time at home, work, or school more than their time in traffic. Others may use them occasionally depending on their urgency to reach their destination. Then there are those who choose to carpool and use the lane free. These Express Lane users equate to less congestion in the general purpose lanes. Express Lanes offer more choices, which results in greater reliability for all the users, in all the lanes. Express Lanes give drivers choices about why, when and how to use the road.
Reliability. For me, that means getting my grandsons to see their cousins and the Rockies when we need to be there. My two young grandsons refer to the Express Lane as “Grandpa’s Lane.” When we go with them to Denver, I always use the lane and they love it — early converts to Express Lanes!
This project will help accommodate population growth, allow our economic growth to continue and will set us up to meet future mobility needs. I’m excited and hope you are too.
Gerry Horak is Fort Collins Mayor Pro Tem, having been elected six times to represent the citizens in northwest Fort Collins, most recently in 2015. He has served on numerous committees and coalitions and brings more than 30 years of business experience building successful enterprises. Gerry and his wife have lived in Fort Collins for 40 years, and he plans to keep the area a place where people want to live, work, recreate and raise their children and grandchildren.