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Overcoming the “Toll” COVID-19 has Taken on Many Tolling Agencies

This year, since I’ve taken the reigns as executive director of the E-470 Public Highway Authority, I’ve been amazed by its resilience. One that started back in 1985 when a few local municipalities in the Denver metro area came together to form the E-470 Public Highway Authority. They had no state or federal funds, only a vision – to build a regional roadway. And like many tolling agencies across the country, resiliency was the key for E-470 during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Funded primarily through toll revenue, E-470 currently receives no local, state, or federal funding for financing, improvements, operations, and maintenance of the roadway. People choose to take E-470 because the 47-mile roadway is a quick, safe, and reliable way to beat congestion. However, in the spring of 2020, people’s work and travel patterns quickly changed, and using E-470 was no longer an easy choice to make.

The Authority had to adjust course and utilize cash reserves to stay afloat. In addition, we did not request or receive state or federal funds through the pandemic, solely relying on strategic planning and financial strategies. Despite the storm, E-470 was still able to prioritize our customers. With support of the E-470 Board of Directors, toll rates or fees weren’t raised – they were frozen instead. And this year, E-470 was able to lower toll rates.

This resilience through the pandemic was recently recognized by the International Bridge, Tunnel, and Turnpike Association (IBTTA). The Authority was awarded IBTTA’s premier 2022 Toll Excellence Award in the “Administration and Finance” category. As a tolling agency, one thing we’ve learned through this experience is if you keep driving forward, silver linings can be found along the way.

Traffic volumes on E-470 are still slowly climbing back to pre-pandemic levels, and we’ll continue to keep our head up and eye on the accomplishments. Now in a time of inflation, paying for a travel convenience may be on the back burner for some people, but making that choice will get easier and easier by the day.

Beau Memory is the Executive Director of the E-470 Public Highway Authority in Denver, overseeing its self-funded Capital Plan, estimated at $500M, which is reinvesting back into the roadway over the next five years to include: a massive road widening project, new interchanges to stay ahead of development and growth, extending the trail system in the region, and technological advances in lane toll system and backoffice software. In 2022, Memory took the leap to embrace Colorado’s transportation landscape from NCDOT where he previously served as the Chief Operating Officer and Chief Deputy Secretary. He became attracted to E-470 through his involvement with IBTTA. Memory is a forward-thinking leader excited to support a team that is already on a successful path to moving more people in the east Denver metro area.

Beau Memory, executive director of the E-470 Public Highway Authority in Denver

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