U.S. 36 contract approved Wednesday between CDOT, HPTE & Plenary Roads amid protests

Several public attendees escorted out

DENVER - As the High Performance Transportation Enterprise Board unanimously agreed Wednesday to move forward with the U.S. Highway 36 public private partnership, those against the measure voiced their concerns and were pulled out of the meeting as a result.

One-by-one troopers physically removed people, even though the individuals were not being confrontational. The board said they were not following the agenda schedule.

The board approved resolutions addressing the U.S. 36 concession financial close documentation, the bond documents and TIFIA Phase 1 documents.  The CDOT Transportation Commission addresses the concessionaire agreement at their meeting tomorrow.  The financial close is expected by next week.

Approval followed a public comment session during which members of the public had the opportunity to address the board following an established process.

Cliff Smedley was one of the meeting attendees escorted out.

"I am quite disappointed. I served 9 years in the National Guard to uphold freedom and democracy and rule of law. And I feel like that was just trashed in that meeting today," said Smedley. "CDOT did not seem to want to hear the voice of the people. Instead I was dragged out and thrown out the back door of CDOT headquarters."

The board meeting follows an additional engagement period over the last two weeks where CDOT participated in three public meetings to address questions and presented to the legislature. CDOT addressed how the agreement protects the taxpayers and traveling public while accelerating and completing a much needed project 20 years that would otherwise be possible given available funding, while also shifting the risk of construction costs and toll collection to a private partner.

The U.S. 36 project has been the result of an extensive public process over the last decade.  The project began in 2003 with an Environmental Impact Statement process that included intense and lengthy participation from local governments and incorporated hundreds of public comments from numerous public meetings. The U.S. 36 Express Lanes Project -- a new express lane for bus, Rapid Transit, carpool vehicles and tolled vehicles, as well as the reconstruction of existing general purpose lanes (which continue to be free to all users) and the rebuilding of many aging bridges and a bikeway -- is the result of that process.

Phase I of the U.S. 36 project is currently under construction and will be opened by Spring 2015.  Phase II of the project will be executed through a public private partnership.  Plenary Roads Denver was chosen last April as the concessionaire for the project after a two-phase competitive big process, which also included consultation with local governments and covered by the media.  CDOT is entering into this agreement to build much-needed improvements on the highway which opened in January 1952 -- two decades sooner than the agency could otherwise afford.

As the first public private partnership for the state of Colorado, the arrangement will accelerate construction through the investment of the private sector while transferring the risk of construction and maintenance costs, as well as toll revenues to the concessionaire.  CDOT has agreed with the concern surrounding transparency and looks forward to working with the legislature on a bill improving this process.

-- Project history --

The US 36 project began in 2003 with an Environmental Impact Statement process that included intense and lengthy participation from local governments and incorporated hundreds of public comments from numerous public meetings.

The US 36 Express Lanes Project -- a new express lane for bus rapid transit, carpool vehicles and tolled vehicles, as well as the reconstruction of existing general purpose lanes and the rebuilding of many aging bridges and a bikeway -- is the result of that process.

Phase I of the US 36 project is currently under construction and will be opened by spring 2015.  CDOT says phase II of the project will be executed through the public private partnership with Plenary Roads Denver, which was chosen in April as the concessionaire for the project after a two-phase competitive big process.

CDOT signed a contract with Plenary in June and will close with the company at the end of the month.

CDOT said it is leasing U.S. 36 because it can't afford to do the reconstruction itself. The toll lanes will be operated by Plenary. Once the company makes its money back from the construction, CDOT will start to collect 50 percent of the toll revenue.

As 7NEWS first reported in April, the toll lanes will be changing and no longer be free unless you have three or more occupants in the vehicle. That change will affect all state toll roads by 2017.

As part of the contract, Plenary will also provide the maintenance and snow removal on all of U.S. 36. To do the maintenance, CDOT will pay Plenary $675,000 each year. To provide snow and ice removal on the entire highway, CDOT will pay up to $458,000 each year.

CDOT can also penalize Plenary for not completing maintenance or providing proper snow and ice removal.

See the contract here: http://ch7ne.ws/1g5txi1.