It’s called a toll

It’s been a good year for skiers all over North America this year, with record snowfall from east to west. But that also means more cars on highways to ski resorts, including the highway leading to the hills from Denver:

Interstate 70, the east-west corridor to the high-country ski resorts, bottlenecks to four lanes from six in places and is often bumper to bumper on weekends.

The highway had its biggest annual increase in vehicle use in 18 years last year, according to state figures, up 6.2 percent, as recreation, international tourism and second-home ownership in the mountains all boomed.

Several solutions to the congestion have been proposed, including adding lanes to I-70 or building a rail line. But Colorado does not have the $5 billion to $10 billion that even the most penny-pinching options would require.

Colorado residents are just as excited about new road tolls as their whiny southern Ontario brethren:

But when State Senator Chris Romer, Democrat of Denver, offered a relatively inexpensive solution last month, his reward was a rap on the head with a ski pole.

Mr. Romer’s suggestion — congestion pricing using financial incentives to encourage people to drive or not drive at peak times on I-70 — drew 500 e-mail messages in the first 24 hours after it was reported in The Rocky Mountain News. About 70 percent opposed the plan, he said, and many of those called him exuberantly bad names.

It’s actually quite a generous plan. For example, the state is considering bribes/incentives for drivers who head to the slopes at off-peak times, before it actually imposing fees on drivers who drive at peak times. Best of all, this means Senator Chris Romer can avoid using the t-words:

Mr. Romer said he did not consider the fees taxes or tolls, but a closed loop of drivers’ paying other drivers, a market-driven solution in which the prices of traveling at differing times are sorted out and traded like other commodities.

Just like the new electricity pricing in Ontario. Could something like this work here on roads like the 400? Could there be a special toll for driving during snowfalls, for example, or some kind of incentive for not driving up to Collingwood on Saturday morning?