The Colorado Senate has approved a bill that could be the death knell
of the proposed Front Range “Super Slab” project.
Senators unanimously endorsed a bill Jan. 31 that would ban private
groups from exercising “eminent domain” to acquire private property to build a
road. The bill is now in the House for consideration.
Sponsored by Sen. Tom Wiens, R-Castle Rock, the bill – SB78 – would
amend a 19th century state law that gives private businesses the authority to
use eminent-domain condemnation procedures to acquire property. The law was
intended to promote road building to mining camps.
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 investors
to build roads.
In addition, proposed private toll roads would be required to go
through the same environmental and public review process as any public roadway.
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 that 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.
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.
The high-speed bypass is favored by developer Ray Wells, president of
the Front Range Toll Road Co.
Other lawmakers are pursuing further limitations to toll roads in Colorado.
Rep. Jack Pommer, D-Boulder, has sponsored a bill that would create
more state oversight of private toll-road projects. The bill spells out all the
steps private tolling companies would go through to have a project approved.
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 off of free routes and onto toll
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, & Military Affairs