A safety enforcement program under Colorado's Department of Transportation isfrom drivers entering and exiting the express lanes outside designated areas. CBS Colorado first reported on the numbers in January and found:
- Along the mountain corridor drivers paid around $1.1 million in penalties.
- Along I -25, that number is over $3.5 million.
- Those using C-470 top the list with more than $3.7 million collected in fees.
Those with violations say disputing those tickets isn't always easy.
"From the west side of town to the east side of town," Jeffery Farrar said.
Farrar recently started driving senior citizens to medical appointments. He paid to use the C-470 express lane from Wadsworth Boulevard to Broadway -- like the sign above the express lanes advertised. He found there's no designated lane exit at Broadway and rather than continue down the express lane and incur more costs, he crossed the double white line to exit.
Scott Wylie uses a different portion of C-470, an area that is now under heavy construction and has semi-trucks coming on at high speeds.
"The bigger safety issue is not moving out of that center lane over into the toll lane to get out of the way of those trucks," he said about why he crossed the double white line.
Both have express lane passes but were hit with safety violations for crossing over that double white line. And both disputed those tickets online.
Farrar lost his dispute and chose not to request a hearing. It cost him.
"Now I'm left paying double. I paid $150," he said after the fine doubled for not being paid in the allotted 20 days.
Wylie is still fighting a violation from November. His dispute was denied even after the department dismissed two other tickets for the same safety concerns. He opted to have the hearing and he believes he can win.
"I've been practicing law for 43 years and I've represented toll authorities -- not this toll authority, not CDOT -- but I have represented other toll authorities in Florida, Texas, Colorado, Illinois," he said.
But the online calendar to schedule that hearing has no open dates and hasn't for months.
"I had to go to the 800 customer service number on the notice, call them and the rep just laughed when I told her I was unable to schedule a hearing online. She just laughed and said, 'Well that's because we have had so many disputes in so many hearing requests that all of the hearing dates in times have been taken,'" he recalls her saying.
Wylie can no longer access the online calendar and weeks of calling to find an opening were unsuccessful. Two months later, he still has no hearing.
He believes others wouldn't be so persistent.
"That's why they're collecting $3.7 million plus dollars, is because everyone doesn't have the tools and resources to do what I've done. Most people are going to give up and say they're just going to pay it," Wylie said.
Tim Hoover with CDOT says revenue from safety enforcement is not a priority. In an interview in January, he pointed instead to the changes in behavior that they've seen and said "Violations are down 60%. We would like to drive them down even more -- as low as they'll go. ... It would be wonderful if we didn't collect a single dollar in revenue.
A request for records found:
- In the first few months of enforcement CDOT issued 242,695 violations.
- There were around 7,300 disputes and roughly 450 people have asked for hearings. Add in another 34,000 default hearings for those who never responded to their violations and the schedule is no doubt busy.
Hoover declined to do a second interview but says like several other courts there is a wait but that they are trying to hire more administrative hearing officers. He says they are legally required to provide a hearing within 75 days and to date haven't failed to meet that obligation.
Wiley, who was among the first to be cited when enforcement started in November, is still waiting.
"I would have thought that by now I would have been contacted," Wylie said.
For those who do get a hearing and disagree with the decision, they can appeal in county court. According to CDOT, only one case has made it that far.
Hoover added that the system is brand new and has never been used before anywhere and they will continue to adjust and improve it as needed, whether that's making it easier for people to navigate the system when they've gotten fines or whether it's a more streamlined system to appeal fines.
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