A Colorado Senate panel has approved a bill that would ban private
groups from exercising “eminent domain” to acquire private property to build a
road. The effort is one of a handful of bills related to toll roads up for
consideration by state lawmakers.
The Senate Transportation Committee unanimously approved a bill that
would amend a 19th century state law that gives private businesses the
authority to use eminent-domain condemnation procedures to acquire property
within the right of way of a proposed toll highway.
The measure would give the Colorado Department of Transportation, not
private groups, the power to condemn land for road projects. It also would
allow developers to form partnerships with the state to allow private
investment to build roads.
The bill – SB78 – now awaits a final vote before the full Senate. If
approved, it would move to the House for further consideration.
This is the second go-around for the legislation. A similar bill was
approved by the General Assembly a year ago before Gov. Bill Owens vetoed it
and warned the state may need private toll roads in the future to pay for
Supporters of the bill say a state law enacted in 1877 was not meant to
solve 21st century transportation problems, the Denver Post reported.
Dan Hopkins, a spokesman for the governor, said the private investment
component in this year’s version would increase its chances of passage.
Sponsored by Sen. Tom Wiens, R-Castle Rock, the bill is intended to
halt a proposed 210-mile private toll road – dubbed the Super Slab – from being
built on the plains of the Front Range.
The proposed $2 billion route would run from Wellington in northern
Colorado to Pueblo in the south. A 12-mile-wide swath where the highway might
go would be an eastern alternative to Interstate 25.
Other lawmakers are pursuing further limitations.
Rep. Jack Pommer, D-Boulder, has sponsored a bill that would create
more state oversight of private toll-road projects. The bill would require
private tolling companies to obtain approval from the Colorado Department of
Transportation before moving forward with any plans.
Owens also vetoed a version of that bill last year.
A separate bill, offered by Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, would bar the
use of eminent domain powers to take land for the purpose of economic
Rep. Al White, R-Winter Park, is pursuing an amendment to the state
constitution that would do the same thing. If approved, it would go before the
public in a general election.
Another bill would prohibit non-compete agreements with toll road
companies. Rep. Gwyn Green, D-Golden, said the bill is intended to prevent “gridlock by design,” which forces traffic onto toll roads.
Sponsored by Rep. Lynn Hefley, R-Colorado Springs, one other bill would
require special districts to hold elections before eminent domain powers could
Pommer’s bill – HB1003 – and Green’s bill – HB1116 – are in the House
Transportation and Energy Committee. Gardner’s bill – HB1099 – and Hefley’s
bill – HB1096 – are in the House State, Veterans, and Military Affairs