Toll road "non-compete" agreements set up roadblocks to the construction of new transportation infrastructure
The "non-compete" clause for the Northwest Parkway raises legislative concerns.
By Jeffrey Leib
The Denver Post
A key Colorado legislator expressed dismay Wednesday with "non-compete" clauses in agreements between toll roads and neighboring jurisdictions.
At a meeting of the Transportation Legislation Review Committee at the state Capitol, Rep. Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, raised his concern after Northwest Parkway operations director Steve Bobrick told lawmakers his toll road objects to improvements to West 160th Avenue because they might hurt the parkway financially.
"The purpose of toll roads is to augment state transportation infrastructure, not act as a roadblock to the construction of new transportation infrastructure in the northwest metro area," McNulty said.
Last year, a foreign-owned consortium spent more than $500 million to lease the toll highway from the Northwest Parkway Public Highway Authority and operate it for 99 years. Broomfield, Lafayette and Weld County control the authority.
The lease agreement included a section stating that construction of a "competing transportation facility" would be an "adverse action," reducing toll revenues and the number of vehicles using the parkway, and entitling the toll-road operator to compensation.
Pedro Costa, executive director of the company operating the parkway, told the public highway authority in a letter this year that the realignment and possible extension of West 160th Avenue is "a serious concern" that the company views as a "probable adverse action."
Plans for 160th do not constitute a "competing transportation facility" as stated in the lease agreement, said Broomfield City and County Manager George Di Ciero. He also acts as managing administrator of the public highway authority.
Officials in Golden have seized on the non-compete issue as they fight the Jefferson Parkway Public Highway Authority's plan to build a 13-mile toll road from Colorado 128 near Jefferson County's airport to Colorado 93 near Golden.
Also at Wednesday's legislative hearing, officials of E-470 briefed lawmakers on plans to introduce cashless, "open-road" tolling on the highway early next year.
Under such a plan, toll booths will be phased out and motorists will be tolled either because their transponders record the fees or because snapshots of their license plates generate a bill for using the highway.
Peggy Catlin, acting director of the Colorado Tolling Enterprise, told legislators her agency expects to solicit interest in a possible "public-private partnership" that would help fund and construct an expansion of U.S. 36 between Interstate 25 and Boulder.
Such an expansion might start with the addition of high-occupancy vehicle (HOV)/ high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes for the entire length of the corridor. HOT lanes allow solo drivers to use the express lanes if they pay a toll.
Jeffrey Leib: 303-954-1645 or firstname.lastname@example.org
© 2008, The Denver Post: www.denverpost.com
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