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CDOT Inks Contentious Highway 36 Agreement

CDOT Facebook page
Colorado Department of Transportation

Colorado transportation officials have finalized a deal for a public-private partnership aimed at easing traffic congestion along U.S. Highway 36 between Denver and Boulder.

The agreement calls for Plenary Roads Denver to construct a new toll and bus rapid transit lane in each direction on a state-owned stretch of the highway. They will also maintain the road and collect tolls for a 50-year period.

Many business leaders say it will help the region’s long-term economy.

"Towns like Boulder and Broomfield have a lot to gain by congestion being cleared up on 36," said Boulder County Business Report's Joshua Lindenstein. “Boulder has the issue of so much of its workforce commuting into the town every day, residents going both ways to work, and office parks on both sides of 36 that they’re trying to attract business to."

A short-lived but intense backlash emerged shortly after details of the plan became known. Opponents – some of whom were forcibly removed from a transportation commission hearing – were concerned over how the deal was struck, and that tolls that will be too high.

"I think CDOT officials have kind of come out and admitted they could have done a better job communicating along the way about what the contract means," Lindenstein said. "When people read about possibilities of a $28 round trip to Denver in the toll lane, or the HOV going from two to three [riders]… it catches them off guard. And they say 'Hold on – why are we just seeing this now, right before the contract comes out?'"

Lindenstein says it time will tell whether the plan was the right move for the area.

"It ultimately comes down to whether it makes thing better for the people in the cars," he noted. "Five, ten years from now, if commuters’ lives are better because of this, then the uproar will have been for nothing."

As the host of KUNC’s new program and podcast In the NoCo, I work closely with our producers and reporters to bring context and diverse perspectives to the important issues of the day. Northern Colorado is such a diverse and growing region, brimming with history, culture, music, education, civic engagement, and amazing outdoor recreation. I love finding the stories and voices that reflect what makes NoCo such an extraordinary place to live.
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