CDOT releases contract to privatize US 36 for 50 years; agency criticized for secrecy around deal

DENVER - The Colorado Department of Transportation has released its controversial contract empowering a private firm to operate U.S. 36 from Denver and Boulder for the next 50 years.

CDOT released the contract Friday after taking heat this week at public hearings where citizens criticized its secretive dealings with Plenary Roads Denver, a consortium of private enterprises that will oversee the U.S. 36 project. 

The document contains 27 schedules which describe contract provisions, standards of service and other agreements to which each agency will be held.

See the contract here:

The deal calls for Plenary Roads to spend $425 million to add toll lanes to the highway. 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.

Lawmakers wanted 60 days to review the contract, but CDOT says it needed to close the deal sooner.

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 held the public meetings to answer questions about its planned 50-year agreement with Plenary Roads Denver to complete the reconstruction of U.S. 36 and control the toll lane that will be created from Boulder to Denver.

At two hearings this week, representatives from CDOT were given an earful from a crowd of unhappy U.S. 36 drivers.

During CDOT's presentation, many in the crowd yelled remarks and some shouted profanities.

The biggest concern from the crowd was the contract itself. They wanted to see CDOT's agreement with the private company, which until Friday had been denied.

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

CDOT 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.

7NEWS will continue to review the contract and update this story as new details become available.

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