A Colorado state lawmaker wants to limit the powers of the
private sector and the state DOT when it comes to building and operating toll
Rep. Marsha Looper, D-Calhan, has introduced a bill into the
Colorado General Assembly that would restrict the use of eminent domain by
private road builders and the state's Department of Transportation.
The bill is set for a Transportation and Energy Committee
hearing Thursday, Feb. 15. The hearing is open to the public and is scheduled
in the old Colorado Supreme Court chambers in the Capitol.
Looper's bill would require the Colorado DOT to adhere to
long-term plans for roads initiated by metropolitan and regional planning
organizations. Under the bill, neither private companies nor the state DOT
could use eminent domain to acquire land for a toll road unless that road was
included in regional road planning.
A case in point is the proposed Prairie Falcon Parkway
Express - which until recent months was referred to as the Super Slab.
In 2006, private developer Ray Wells sent letters to
hundreds of property owners along the proposed Super Slab route informing them
of his intent to build the toll road. The letter informed property owners they
could either sell to him or the state would acquire their land through eminent
That got up the ire of residents and lawmakers like Looper,
whose bill seeks to restrict the powers of developers and the state regarding
"There is no reason to build the Super Slab and displace
thousands of Coloradoans," Looper states on her Web site.
The bill would require that private developers of toll roads
first acquire a minimum of 80 percent of the proposed rights of way before the
state could initiate the use of eminent domain - and only then if the road was
included in long-term regional plans.
Wells has proposed the 210-mile Prairie Falcon Parkway
Express toll road and multi-modal corridor run through seven counties: Adams,
Arapahoe, Elbert, El Paso, Pueblo, Larimer and Weld.
"The project includes a four-lane, median-divided toll road,
rail, utilities, and associated service areas and right of way," Wells states
on the parkway's Web site.
The developer cites a 19th-century law that allows private
developers to use eminent domain for roadways. Wells originally filed his
intent to build the Super Slab in 1986.
"This project is contemplated as a public-private
partnership between the Colorado Department of Transportation and the Prairie
Falcon Parkway Express Company," he wrote.
The House hearing on Looper's bill, HB1068, will be
conducted by the Colorado House Transportation and Energy Committee, following
the daily House floor session Thursday. A House spokeswoman said the hearing is
likely to begin between 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. and Looper's bill is third on
the committee agenda.
To hear the live audio online, click here the day of the meeting and then click
on "Old Supreme Court Chambers."
- By David Tanner,