5:51pm

Wed June 4, 2014
Politics

Hickenlooper Squashes Road Deal Transparency Measure

A bill that would have provided greater public oversight during public-private road deals was vetoed by Governor John Hickenlooper Wednesday.

The measure was proposed following public outcry over a deal to widen U.S. 36 between Denver and Boulder as well as install toll lanes.

The bill, if signed into law, would have required safeguards including upfront cost estimates, more interaction with the public and state lawmakers before a deal could be signed, and capping contracts to no longer than 35 years.

The U.S. 36 deal struck between Plenary Group Denver, a consortium of six companies, was inked for 50 years.

“The Governor made the wrong call,” said Danny Katz, director of CoPirg, a public advocacy group that supported the bill. “SB-197 did a good job addressing concerns after the U.S.36 private road deal about the transparency and oversight of the process, the length of the deal, and concern about clauses that limit future decision making and put taxpayers on the hook.”

While the Governor vetoed the bill, he did sign an executive order. According to a statement, the order would "improve transparency, accountability and openness relating to the Colorado Department of Transportation High-performance Transportation Enterprise.”

Katz said private funding deals shouldn’t be seen as a quick fix to a dwindling CDOT budget.

“Colorado does not need to sign away local control and lock taxpayers into deals that last 50, 70 or 100 years in order to pursue private funding to help build and maintain roads,” Katz said. “Instead of making that clear, the Governor’s veto keeps Colorado open to some of the riskiest aspects of private road deals.”

According to The Denver Post, a Legislative Audit Committee has agreed to conduct a preliminary audit of the U.S. 36 contract. A decision on any further investigation would come in July.