DENVER - The Colorado Department of Transportation is asking for permission to make public a copy of its planned privatization contract for an express lane on US 36.
CDOT has the legal authority now to sign the 600-page contract with Plenary Roads, which would gain 50 years of rights to collect express lane tolls on the stretch of highway between Denver and Boulder.
The state would receive a large chunk of the funding it needs to complete its project to overhaul the highway, and Plenary would provide maintenance on the highway (including snow plows) for the duration of the contract.
"We feel the contract is locked down," CDOT Director Don Hunt. "If Plenary will agree and I believe they will, we'll release the whole thing."
So far, CDOT has released details about the project, but not the full contract.
That's drawn pushback from some state lawmakers.
"It's a secret deal," Sen. Matt Jones (D-Boulder) said. "The contract they negotiated is a secret deal."
Democratic Senator Matt Jones of Boulder is planning a bill that would require contracts like this one to be made public before CDOT can sign them.
"[CDOT would] be required to check in along the way and then at the end the legislature should have final approval," Jones said.
CDOT cautions against the idea of forcing too much public oversight of contract negotiations.
"There's no way that you can negotiate a contract with thousands of members of the public and ever hope to get it done," Hunt said.
Hunt says his agency is too far into the process to make big changes to the US 36 deal, without a serious cost to the state, or even the risk of spooking off Plenary and the money to revamp the highway.
The CDOT director repeated something his agency's representatives said at a Wednesday night meeting, that CDOT should have done a better job of engaging and informing the public about what it was trying to do.
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