Update on US 36 Public-Private Partnership: Understanding the Facts
Over the last few weeks, the public asked CDOT for more details about the upcoming public-private partnership (P3) for the US 36 corridor. We wanted to take this opportunity to explain what is happening with the P3 and the contract as there has been a lot of misinformation released.
The US 36 project has been the result of a very public process for the last 10 years, and elected officials have been partners in it from the very beginning. The project began in 2003 with an Environmental Impact Statement process that included intense and lengthy participation from local governments and incorporated hundreds of public comments from numerous public meetings. The US 36 Express Lanes Project – a new express lane for Bus Rapid Transit, carpool vehicles and tolled vehicles, as well as the reconstruction of existing general purpose lanes (which continue to be free to all users) and the rebuilding of many aging bridges and a bikeway – is the result of that process.
CDOT, HPTE and Plenary Roads Denver have been working on the public-private partnership and the contract for almost a year. Plenary was chosen last April as the concessionaire for the project after a two-phase competitive bid process, which also included consultation with local governments. Since 2003, elected officials have been part of and the media has reported on the process on US 36. We had a commercial close of the contract in June 2013, and the financial close will take place by the end of February.
We understand that this is the first P3 for the state of Colorado, and it is a new concept for our stakeholders. 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. Federal and state fuel taxes, which have not changed in over 20 years, cannot pay for the amount of aging infrastructure that needs repair in this state. A P3 is an innovative funding mechanism that puts the majority of the financial risk of the construction and maintenance costs, as well as the toll revenue collection on the private company; provides two thirds of the construction costs from the private sector and allows us to accelerate construction by decades.
Additionally, the contract ensures that Plenary adheres to strict maintenance standards in our corridor, a roadway that the state still owns. While maintaining our roads, they must pay their employees the same rates as CDOT employees, who can now be deployed to other areas in the region. We also can continue to make transportation improvements in the area though we must work with our partner should any construction impact the operations of the toll lanes. Our tolls, over the course of the 50 years, will be capped at $14 each way and approved by the Governor appointed HPTE board. The likelihood we would get to that point is slim; and we expect tolls to be very similar to what they are today on the I-25 corridor ranging from $4 – $6.
We know there are more questions, and we encourage you to attend one of our two public meetings to learn more. If you are unable to attend, please view our link to our FAQ as well as the 80-page summary of the agreement that can hopefully answer a lot of questions. http://www.coloradodot.info/programs/high-performance-transportation-enterprise-hpte/reports/us-36-p3-faq-1-30-14.pdf/view
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