BOULDER, Colo. (AP) – Supporters and opponents are gearing up for two public meetings to discuss a deal that would allow a private company to take over the operation of the main highway between Denver and Boulder for the next 50 years.
Plenary Roads was chosen by the Colorado Department of Transportation to perform $425 million in construction on U.S. Highway 36 under a private-public partnership. The company would collect tolls from new lanes and will maintain and plow the highway.
CDOT said it would take 20 years before there would be enough public funding for such a project. The deal is expected to close by month’s end.
Under the proposed deal, Plenary Roads Denver would collect all revenues from the toll lanes currently being constructed in each direction of the turnpike.
Transportation Department spokeswoman Amy Ford said parts of the proposed agreement are being kept secret because they contain proprietary financial information that the state has agreed needs to remain private.
State Sen. Matt Jones, D-Louisville, said the lack of transparency on the CDOT-Plenary contract bothers him and he wants the information made public.
“We shouldn’t have secret deals,” Jones said. “We should be able to look at the whole contract and see how the state and the company are treated. But we can’t because we can’t see the contract.”
Ford said critics are mischaracterizing what the contract says, the Boulder Daily Camera reported Tuesday.
She said the reports of a possible $28 round-trip toll between Denver and Boulder reflect the desire by transportation planners to include the flexibility of congestion pricing – tolls that change depending on traffic volume – on the highway to ensure that the toll lanes in each direction do not bog down.
“Realistically, we think the likelihood (the maximum toll price will go into effect) is slim,” she said.
The Plenary Group, with offices in Australia, Singapore, Canada and the United States, on Monday referred all questions on the contract to CDOT.
The first public meeting is Wednesday in Westminster, and the second will be in Louisville on Thursday.
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