The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

25 October 2003


Our road warriors cover much of the Mountain time zone, so while I was making notes for some future ('06?) World Tour, I popped the question to one of them: "How would you organize a trip to Montana from here without having to go through Denver?"

The warrior beamed, for he knew that this time he would not have to impart the lesson of a lifetime: Do not, under any circumstances, go through Denver.

As it happens, Fûz has been contemplating what it's like to go through Denver, and he thinks the plans being implemented are wrong-headed and utterly miss the point. His thesis:

A beltway is supposed to relieve the downtown of the traffic burden of mainline highways crossing the city. Travelers who want to go through Denver should be encouraged to drive the extra miles, on very nicely built roads with high speed limits, to skip the traffic and the hassle, and even to relocate some of the air pollution away from downtown. Ten bucks of tolls does not constitute encouragement to drive 46 miles instead of 32, especially for heavy trucks whose per-mile and per-minute costs are higher.

Those extra 14 miles come from taking the new E470 route instead of I-25. As an alternative, Fûz proposes a High Occupancy/Toll lane on I-25 with limited access and egress. For the Interstate traveler heading north (as I would be, except of course that I'm trying to avoid going through Denver), the Fûz plan offers three choices:

  1. Go straight up I-25, quickly and without dodging local traffic. You pay one toll at the Lone Tree plaza, just North of Exit 191. Stay in the HOT lane until you pass the Boulder Pike plaza and you pay nothing more.

  2. Go straight up I-25, local lanes, and dodge the local traffic. Count on spending 45 minutes more to do so in lieu of paying the toll.

  3. Take E470, you pay nothing.

Even if it's ten bucks for #1, this strikes me as more sensible; the whole idea of E470 should be to divert people (especially local traffic) from I-25 in the first place, and you don't divert people by hitting them with both a toll and a greater distance to drive.

In Oklahoma, where we all hate toll roads with a passion, some of them are actually justified, and none of them more so than the Kilpatrick Turnpike, which describes a 120-degree arc from I-35 near the Oklahoma City/Edmond line to I-40 out near El Reno. The northern segment of the Kilpatrick runs more or less parallel to Memorial Road, a major east-west artery that is hopelessly clogged with local traffic. Is it worth a buck to bypass all that to go from the eastern terminus (roughly the 5000 block east) to, say, Quail Springs Mall (roughly 2500 west)? Easily. And if you use the RF devices, it's only 90 cents.

My new commute, once I'm into the new digs, will run about 11 miles, three times what I'm used to, and that includes a loop on I-44 east to I-35 south. Both of these roads are fairly heinous in the morning hours, and the I-44 segment includes the infamous Belle Isle Bridge. If I confine myself to surface streets, the distance shortens to about 9 miles, though the time required increases markedly. There are no plans to make either of the two Interstate segments toll roads at this time. (The portion of I-44 actually in Oklahoma City is one of the few stretches in the state that isn't a toll road.) And taking the Kilpatrick itself adds 15 miles to the trip. But would I pay, say, $2 a day for a 70-mph Kilpatrick-like breeze through the city? In a heartbeat. There's no room for another in-town loop, though, and I doubt that ODOT could get Fûz to go to work for them.

Posted at 6:00 PM to Driver's Seat

Another sign that Chucky is slipping from his peak of anal retentivity: He didn't tell us about the commute from each and every ChazCave candidate..

Commuters, as a group, suck. Individually, they might be intelligent, amiable, and generally good folks; but stick 'em in a group, and they're all self-centered maniacs.

Seriously, I'm all the way glad to have a useful toll road nearish to where I drive the most. I don't drive on highways unless forced to, so any way to get the surface clear for ME is a Good Thing. (OK, mostly seriously)

Posted by: Terkish Payne at 11:12 PM on 25 October 2003

(begins tidying up the house in anticipation of Charles' visit in '06)

Posted by: David at 3:11 AM on 26 October 2003

Well, the facts are these: Most of the venues investigated were within three or four miles of the one finally selected, and with the possible exception of the two locations in the Village, they followed essentially the same path back to 42nd and Treadmill. Given my initial selection criteria (16th to 122nd, Broadway to MacArthur), this is not surprising.

Posted by: CGHill at 4:09 AM on 26 October 2003

This is where the retention part comes in. You didn't share all your colored maps with traffic flow patterns. We haven't seen the stacks of official police reports regarding all the accidents from the last 15.4 years along all the routes, gained by greasing the local constabulary, probably in the sub-basement level of some dark parking structure late in the night (lots of silhouettes of fedora'd smoking men with raspy voices.. oop, 21st century.. Gum-chewing men and women.. Sugarless gum.) We don't have access to your lists of agents lost in the field while investigating various potholes and Michigan Left possibilities under your orders. CGH has three letters starting with C, and so does an equally information-retentive other organization. Yeah, your anality is about the same, it's the retention that's on the rise. :)

Posted by: Terkish Payne at 8:53 AM on 26 October 2003

That's earliest memories of OK are of the Indian Nation Turnpike, the road we took to visit Missouri great-grandparents. Wasn't there one of those "over the highway" restaurants on that road?

Anyway, for me, OK is the first toll-road I ever encountered (that I remember.) I can still see the IBM 8080 punch card over the visor in my granddad's Buick or Pontiac or whatever he had.

Posted by: Scott Chaffin at 8:29 PM on 26 October 2003

You know, I really do worry about you.

Posted by: Vickie at 4:51 PM on 27 October 2003

That's half the battle (where "half" = approximately 0.15).

Posted by: CGHill at 6:47 PM on 27 October 2003