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Increase in Public Protections in Private Road Deals Up for Vote

CoPIRG Calls for Passage of SB-197
For Immediate Release

Two months after Colorado signed a controversial, 50-year, private road deal concerning U.S. 36, the House will consider a bill that would increase transparency and public protections in future private road deals. CoPIRG is calling for the swift passage of the bi-partisan bill, SB-197, which cleared the Senate last week on a 25-10 vote.

“The public outcry in February made it clear that there needs to be improvements in how Colorado pursues public-private partnerships (PPPs) to build and maintain roads,” said Danny Katz, Director of CoPIRG. “SB-197 creates good public protections in private road deals. It won’t address every concern but it’s a good step forward.”

As Colorado decision makers grapple with significant funding challenges for the state’s transportation system, partnerships with private, for-profit companies are increasingly seen as a solution for financing. To ensure the public interest is protected, which would include ensuring high levels of transparency, value, efficiency and safety, CoPIRG released a set of principles in January for any public-private partnership for transportation projects. 

 “SB-197 limits the risk of a bad deal for Colorado by increasing transparency and oversight, and banning some of the most egregious clauses that have been used in other PPP’s to undermine local decision-making authority,” said Katz.   

CoPIRG highlighted that SB-197 adds a number of public protections including:

  • Increases transparency in private road deals by providing the public clearer information on the costs and alternatives.
  • Requires public participation opportunities at three key stages in the development of any deal.
  • Increases oversight of private road deals by requiring more communication with state legislators and adding Senate confirmation to the appointment process for the Board of the High-Performance Transportation Enterprise, which is responsible for private road deals.
  • Bans the worst "non-compete" clauses that undermine local decision-making authority and penalize the public if a road is shut down due to weather or an emergency.
  • Reduces the risks associated with long-term deals by setting the expectation that deals should be no longer than 35 years. Any proposal for a deal longer than 35 years will require General Assembly approval.

“These are basic public protections that should be a part of every private road deal the state pursues. Given the concern raised around U.S. 36, passing this bill is a good step forward and shows Coloradans that their elected representatives heard those concerns and acted,” said Katz. 

The Colorado House has less than a week to pass SB-197, which would then head to the Governor’s desk.

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