Thursday, January 30, 2014

US 36 fifty-year privatization contract to be signed Monday Feb 3, 2014

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Terms described as risky and a threat to the economic future of Colorado

In a deal described by citizen’s groups as “risky and damaging the economic interests of the people of Colorado for the next half century”, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) has indicated that the controversial US 36 privatization contract will be ready to sign by Monday February 3, 2014. The 50 year legally binding contract will be signed behind closed doors by the state highway privatization board, the HPTE. The contract will not be read or reviewed by the Colorado Senate or House prior to signing and public input is not allowed.

An investigation by a Boulder based clean energy organization, the Drive SunShine Institute (DSI) has revealed a sweeping ten year effort by corporate lobbyists from the world’s largest toll road developers to create a Colorado state highway privatization board. The new HTPE board is leasing US 36 for fifty years, then will also privatize and add toll lanes to I-70 in the heart of downtown Denver and into the mountains, the rest of C-470 and I-25 between Denver and Ft Collins. View privatization map

“The US 36 fifty year contract is a high risk, bad deal for the people of Colorado that is primarily paid for with state and federal money. Escalating toll rates on the new wave of Colorado private highways will threaten the financial well being of residents who travel for work or recreation,” says Ken Beitel, a clean energy analyst with the Drive SunShine Institute (DSI). DSI research has revealed the intense corporate lobbying campaign focused on Colorado by the world’s largest toll road developers including Cintra and Macquarie. “From what we understand the 50-year US 36 contract has the standard non-compete and revenue guarantees. This means it may be illegal for surrounding communities like Broomfield and Westminster to upgrade roads near US 36 because it could damage toll revenue for the private contractor. In 2008, Northwest Parkway threatened legal action to stop expansion of nearby West 160th avenue.”

Another Colorado toll road, E-470 has non-compete clauses including agreements with the Cities of Aurora, Brighton, and Thornton, the Town of Parker, and Adams and Douglas Counties that provide, for at least fifteen years, these entities will not construct or improve any road (with certain pre-approved exceptions) that would reduce tolls collected on E-470.

In 2002, an E-470 non-compete clause with Commerce City lowered the speed limit on nearby Tower Road from 55 MPH to 40 MPH, and had stop lights installed on Tower Road at 96th, 104th, and 112th Avenues to force paid toll traffic onto E-470, a privately operated toll road.
Revenue guarantees in the US 36 contract also remove control of highway policy from the people of Colorado. For instance, if the now under construction US 36 toll lanes are removed or additional free lanes are added, or if electric vehicles are provided incentives to use the HOV lane to reduce carbon emissions, the State of Colorado may be required to provide toll compensation for the next 50 years to the Plenary Group consortium and its partners.

To ensure private sector earnings on US 36, wages and total compensation for snowplow drivers and maintenance workers may be cut by more than half. Privatized highway workers will not be eligible to participate in PERA, the state retirement plan, or in the state union of public employees.

Colorado Senate/House Denied Opportunity to Review 50 Year US 36 Contract Prior to Signing

Colorado state Senator Matt Jones has repeatedly asked CDOT for the US 36 privatization contract to allow him to review the deal to ensure the public interest is being met. CDOT has refused to comply with the Senator’s request informing the elected official that he can read the contract in a week or two, just like everybody else, after the 50 year binding contract is signed.

“We urge Colorado senators and state representatives to prevent the state HPTE board from signing this risky contract, highly influenced by corporate lobbyists,” explains Beitel, “How can Senate President Morgan Carroll, an advocate of consumer rights and democracy, be comfortable in letting a state privatization board sign a fifty year contract she has not even seen?”

Sign the Petition Now

So far, more than 1,200 people have signed a petition calling for the Colorado senators and house representatives to read the US 36 privatization contract prior to the signing of the 50 year deal. A town hall meeting at 5pm Friday, Jan 31st in Boulder is expected to draw hundreds as anger grows at elected state senators and representatives who seem to be ignoring their public duty.

CDOT Communications Director Amy Ford and HPTE Director Michael Cheroutes will attend the Friday night town hall to discuss the US 36 privatization deal along with hundreds of concerned voters.

In order to read the US 36 contract, the Colorado Senate and House will need to convene an emergency session and pass legislation that suspends the ability of the HPTE board to sign the fifty-year US 36 privatization contract.

“Elected officials must act now to guard the economic interests of Colorado from corporate lobbyists or face the disappointment of angry voters this fall,” concludes Beitel, “The urgency of this matter cannot be overstated. This deal is a clear threat to the finances of Colorado. It is a failure of public duty to sign a risky 50 year contract privatizing state assets without reading it. The multi-generational impact of this lobbyist driven agreement will harm the economic interests of the people of Colorado and our children for the next half century.”

US 36 Privatization Town Hall, 5pm Friday, January 31, 2014, Boulder, CO


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