Dems urge CDOT to hold off on 'secret deal'

7:57 PM, Jan 30, 2014   |    comments
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DENVER - A group of Democratic state legislators is calling on the Colorado Department of Transportation to hold off on signing what the legislators are calling a "secret deal" to finance the final phase of construction along US 36 between Boulder and Denver.

Led in part by Sen. Matt Jones (D-Louisville), a total of 14 legislators are requesting a "60-day review period before the contract is signed."

Last year, CDOT agreed to hire the private consortium Plenary Roads Denver to complete the second phase of work on US 36. The financial agreement with Plenary Roads is expected to be signed as soon as Monday. In exchange for partially financing the work, Plenary Roads will be allowed to collect all tolls from motorists using pre-designed toll lanes in each direction of the highway. The contract, in essence, leases the highway to Plenary for the next 50 years.

Plenary would be responsible for performing such tasks as pothole repair and snow removal during the 50-year period. The precise terms of the agreement, however, remain uncertain as the concessionaire contract with Plenary has yet to be released.

9Wants to Know along with Sen. Jones asked CDOT to see a copy of the contract, but the requests have been denied. Both 9News and Sen. Jones have been told that a copy of the full contract would become available after closing.

"As a state senator, I cannot see that contract," said Sen. Jones on Thursday. "We're concerned."

"We want to know what's in the deal," he added. "We want to be assured it's going to be a good deal for our constituents."

CDOT told 9NEWS on Thursday it is reviewing the letter from the state legislators and should have a formal statement on Friday.

"We are not trying to derail the project," the letter states. "We need it. But a simple review of the contract by the legislature and the public is not too much to ask."

The deal to bring in private companies to finance large public projects is part of a national trend to raise money during cash-strapped times. The so-called public-private partnerships, or P3's, offer states desperate to start massive road reconstruction projects a way to get moving quickly. Private consortiums like Plenary Roads offer money up front in exchange for a steady stream of income through toll collection over a prolonged period of time.

CDOT is planning on using P3's to finance upcoming work on I-25 and I-70 as well. The use of P3's was authorized during passage of Colorado's FASTER legislation in 2009.

(KUSA-TV © 2014 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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