Controversy grows over US 36 contract

Photo: CDOT logo
The Colorado Department of Transportation logo.

The Colorado Department of Transportation is holding public meetings this week to try to ease fears and Wednesday night's meeting in Westminster lasted nearly three hours as residents voiced their concern.

"We could have and should have done a better job of communicating the nature of what this contract should be," CDOT spokeswoman Amy Ford said.

The rumors swirling around the project include: CDOT is selling Colorado’s roads to Australians; you'll have to pay $28 a day to drive on U.S. 36 between Denver and Boulder; and that some city streets in Boulder won’t be repaired for 50 years.

Details of the yet-to-be-finalized 50-year contract, which has not yet been signed, haven't been made public. But CDOT has said the private company can charge up to $14 to go through the toll through the life of the contract.

The agency expects the toll will cost drivers about $5 when it opens and the contractors will be responsible for finishing construction on that section of road and doing maintenance, including filling potholes and clearing the road in the winter, for the next 50 years.

The contract is between CDOT and a consortium of six companies, some of which are already doing significant work in Colorado.

The idea was to bring companies with expertise in financing, construction and more into one entity, Plenary Roads Denver, according to Monte Whaley, who covers transportation for the Denver Post.

Earlier in the day on Wednesday, before the meeting in Westminster, CDOT officials fought back against the criticism in a statement that says the plan is the result of a "very public process" going back about a decade and the contract was first made public in April 2013.

"Simply, we are entering into this agreement to build much-needed improvements on a highway that was opened in 1951 two decades sooner than we could otherwise afford," Ford wrote in the statement.

Ford also said CDOT is exploring using the public-private partnership model for other highways in the state including I-25 and I-70.

CDOT is holding a public meeting Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014, at 6:30pm. The location has been changed to the former Sam’s Club store located at 555 McCaslin Boulevard, Louisville, Colo. Previously it was planned for the Louisville Recreation Center.