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Denver– The Senate Transportation Committee voted 3-2 against a bill, SB 15-172, that would have increased oversight and transparency around future private road deals and encouraged the agency charged with negotiating and securing these deals to identify transportation efficiencies by using more transit and demand management programs like carpooling to meet Colorado’s growing transportation needs. The move to kill the bill came right after the committee unanimously approved an amendment to allow voters more say on individual deals.
“Private road deals can be worth tens of millions of dollars and can lock Colorado into long-term transportation arrangements regarding vital infrastructure,” said Danny Katz, Director of CoPIRG. “This bill would have increased oversight, public accountability, and transparency for the High-Performance Transportation Enterprise (HPTE), which is tasked with putting together these deals, as well as the deals themselves. It’s unfortunate the bill died.”
CoPIRG applauded the legislation, sponsored by Senator Matt Jones and Representative Mike Foote, for increasing public oversight and accountability for HPTE board members by requiring that all future appointees to the HPTE Board of Directors receive confirmation from the State Senate. CoPIRG also supported provisions in the bill that required the terms of any deal be made public.
“Over the next few weeks, the State Senate is considering appointments to the State Board of Parole, the Statewide Internet Portal Authority, the Board of Assessment Appeals and the Colorado Tourism Office board,” said Katz. “The High-Performance Transportation Enterprise negotiates multi-million dollar deals that impact our most important transportation corridors. That warrants at least the same oversight. In addition, the terms of any deal should be made public. That’s the heart of achieving transparency.”
Despite failing to pass, a number of pieces of SB 15-172 have already been adopted as HPTE policy by the current seven-member HPTE Board of Directors. These include clear benchmarks for public outreach and education around proposed private road deals and around changes in High-Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) policy.
“Last year, the HPTE, following Governor Hickenlooper’s Executive Order, took some good steps in articulating clearer processes and expectations for providing information and receiving input on potential private road deals from the public,” said Katz. “SB 172 took those steps even further and would have provided answers to many of the questions that the public raised in the most recent debate around the 50-year private road deal along U.S. 36.”
Finally, a number of provisions in SB 15-172 gave the HPTE direction to identify ways to more efficiently meet the growing transportation demands of the state by emphasizing that the agency prioritize moving people, not just cars, analyze the effectiveness of mass transit options within negotiated deals and use 10% of the money Colorado receives from a private road deal to expand alternative transportation options and demand management.
“To meet the demands of a growing population and a growing economy, Colorado needs to stretch our limited dollars. One way to do that is to embrace the recent drop in driving by the average Coloradan, capitalize on the new transit systems going online across the state and leverage the impacts of new high-tech transportation options like car share programs,” said Katz. “Taken together, these could help the state meet growing transportation demand better than a traditional car-first approach. SB 15-172 encouraged our transportation decision makers to utilize 21st century out-of-the-box solutions that can move people more safely and cost effectively within the constraints of our current system and funding.”
SB 15-172 was brought forward by Senator Matt Jones and Representative Mike Foote. Voting in favor of the final bill was Senator Nancy Todd and Leroy Garcia. Voting against the bill were Senators Randy Baumgardner, Ray Scott and John Cooke.
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