Colorado bills target private toll road

| 5/3/2005

Two efforts in the Colorado General Assembly would either halt or hinder a proposed 210-mile private toll road on the plains of the Front Range.

One bill would effectively kill the project – dubbed the Super Slab – by stripping the power to condemn property from private tolling companies.

The other would allow developer Ray Wells to continue his toll road plans but under much stricter rules.

The Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved the first bill.

At the same time, the full House unanimously approved the second bill, which Wells told the Rocky Mountain News would let him continue planning for a high-speed bypass running north of Fort Collins to the south of Pueblo as an eastern alternative to Interstate 25.

Wells, president of the Front Range Toll Road Co, said the road would appeal to truckers who want to bypass the congested corridor that links Front Range communities.

Gov. Bill Owens likely will veto the first bill – SB230 – if it reaches his desk, his spokesman Dan Hopkins told the newspaper.

“Super Slab is not going to be built this summer. Something like this could have ramifications on private investment in infrastructure in Colorado,” Hopkins said.

If the second bill wins approval and is signed by the governor, Wells could proceed with his plans under stringent new requirements.

HB1342 would require private tolling companies to obtain approval from the Colorado Department of Transportation before moving forward with any plans. It also would narrow the width of the proposed corridor – currently an unusually wide 12 miles – and require approval from the commissioners in all seven counties where the road passes, among other things, the newspaper reported.

The Senate Transportation Committee essentially killed a House bill in March that would have allowed the state’s tolling agency and the Front Range Toll Road Co. to decide how toll rates are set. A large protest outside the Capitol preceded the panel vote on HB1030.

The cost of the proposed 210-mile route is estimated at $2 billion.