Criticized Colorado Turnpike Contract Made Public
DENVER (AP) – The Colorado Department of Transportation on Friday publicly released its much-criticized contract with a private firm to operate U.S. 36 between Denver and Boulder for the next 50 years.
The contract has been posted on CDOT’s website at http://tinyurl.com/k5o4tj7.
The deal, which is expected to be final in about two weeks, calls for a consortium of private enterprises called Plenary Roads Denver to spend $425 million to add a toll lane to the two general-purpose lanes already running in each direction.
The consortium would then collect all the tolls and maintain and plow the highway for 50 years.
State lawmakers and the public have sharply criticized CDOT for the secrecy surrounding the deal. Some have also expressed concern about potential financial risk to taxpayers.
Lawmakers wanted 60 days to review the contract, but CDOT said Thursday it needs to close the deal sooner.
CDOT Director Don Hunt told the Boulder Daily Camera investors are lined up and bond buyers are ready to purchase the debt to finance the project.
“It’s ready to close in the next two weeks,” he said.
State Sen. Matt Jones, D-Louisville, one of 14 legislators who wrote a letter to the department asking for time to review the contract, said too much secrecy surrounds the project.
CDOT officials defended the contract before the Legislature’s joint transportation committee Thursday.
They were supported by several prominent former and current public officials, including Boulder Mayor Matt Appelbaum, former Boulder County Commissioner Will Toor and former Broomfield Mayor Pat Quinn, who said the arrangement with Plenary is sound, even if the effort to explain it to the public wasn’t.
Hunt told the committee that public-private partnerships are vital in an economic environment where his department has limited money. The gas tax, which funds construction and maintenance, hasn’t been increased in more than 20 years, he said.
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