Colorado’s U.S. 36 project breaks new ground

By Eric Sundquist

One of the highlights of SSTI’s recent workshop on the Transportation Alternatives Program was former Boulder, CO, Mayor Will Toor’s account of a project to improve a key corridor between Boulder and Denver.

The U.S. 36 project, now underway, will expand a four-lane facility to add an express lane carrying bus-rapid transit, high-occupancy vehicles, and tolled single-occupancy vehicles, as well as ITS systems and a commuter bikeway. Of particular interest to the workshop was the fact that the project’s tolls will support the multimodal facilities.

The project will be the subject of an upcoming SSTI webinar in September.

In the meantime, the project has garnered national attention via a recent New York Times article. An excerpt:

Work has begun on an upgrade for U.S. 36 that will incorporate a special fast lane for high-occupancy vehicles, bus rapid transit service, an electronic toll system for single-occupant cars and a bike path.

It is, in other words, a highway designed to encourage people to drive less.

Plenty of highway upgrades around the country now include some of these features—high-occupancy-vehicle lanes are widespread, and bike lanes are popping up here and there. In cities like Birmingham, Ala., Seattle, and Ann Arbor, Mich., the Obama administration is using federal money to help develop roadway projects that combine several ways of getting around.

“But until now, no single highway plan has pulled all of them together,” said Victor M. Mendez, the head of the Federal Highway Administration. “This innovative approach is what we’re looking for in the future,” he said. “It’s an exciting project.”

Donald E. Hunt, the executive director of the Colorado Department of Transportation, said when the first shovels turned dirt on U.S. 36 that the idea of offering many ways to travel on one road was simple: “More transportation options mean less time sitting in traffic.”

Eric Sundquist is Managing Director of SSTI.