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Nearly three months after Colorado signed a controversial, 50-year, private road deal concerning U.S. 36, the Colorado Legislature approved a bill that would increase transparency and public protections in future private road deals. CoPIRG applauds the bi-partisan bill, SB-197.
“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.
CoPIRG calls on Governor Hickenlooper to sign the bill into law.
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