US 36 toll lane controversy sparks new Colorado road contract requirements

DENVER - A Colorado bill prompted by public anger over public-private road contracts is on its way to the desk of Gov. John Hickenlooper.

The bill requires the Colorado Department of Transportation to hold more public meetings about road projects. The bill also requires lawmaker approval for any road project that exceeds 35 years.

The House voted for the bill 35-29. It was prompted by citizen displeasure with a public-private partnership to widen U.S. 36 between Denver and Boulder. The plan includes toll lanes, and many said the public didn't have adequate notice of the plan.

CDOT says it partnered with that private company, Plenary Roads, to help build, then manage the new lanes as toll lanes. Plenary will also handle maintenance, including snow removal, for the entire highway.

While emails circulating this week are criticizing CDOT for pushing the deal through without a lot of transparency. CDOT argues that's untrue and says a state board, called High Performance Transportation Enterprise, signed off on the deal months earlier.

CDOT said because of costs, the general strategy for expanding state highways from now on will include allowing private companies to foot the bill.

CDOT said toll lanes, which they call "managed lanes," are also planned on I-25 from Denver to Ft. Collins, I-70 through the metro area from I-25 to Tower Road, I-70 from Idaho Springs to Vail and C-470.

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