Governor vetoes road transparency bill

Retains parts of measure, signs executive order

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A bill that sought more scrutiny of the teaming of state and privately-backed road projects has failed to make it any further than Gov. John Hickenlooper's desk.

Senate Bill 197 — a bill that would have provided greater oversight and transparency for private-public road construction partnerships — was vetoed by Hickenlooper on June 4. However, some of the bill’s intent survived.

The bill — a response to grumblings over the US 36 road project process — would have required any “P3” project that exceeds 35 years to be approved by the Legislature. It also would have required a Colorado Department of Transportation board to hold public meetings throughout any road project process and keep the Legislature and other local elected officials informed along the way.

The $425 million, 50-year US 36 project, which will widen the lanes of the highway and incorporate toll lanes, received a great deal of criticism by local residents who felt as though the P3 contract was too secretive and that they were kept out of the loop on key parts of the project.

Hickenlooper supports the part of the bill that sought greater transparency and signed an executive order that requires the state to improve “accountability, transparency and openness” of CDOT P3 projects. But the overall bill, which he said contained “unworkable provisions,” was vetoed.

Hickenlooper issued a statement, saying that he took issue with parts of the bill that required legislative go-ahead for projects that exceed 35 years and other features that “inappropriately constrains the business terms of future P3 agreements.”

“These constraints on business terms would create a chilling component on future transactions, making investors unlikely or unwilling to bid on Colorado projects due to the increased risks this process would generate,” the governor said.

Hickenlooper's statement was accompanied by a list of 48 persons or local government entities that called on the governor to veto the bill, including many business organizations.

Rep. Tracy Kraft-Tharp, D-Arvada, a bill sponsor, said she was disappointed with the governor's decision, but that the executive order means that her effort did not go for naught.

“I hope we can build on the transparency piece so that we can move toward figuring out a way to figure in oversight,” she said. “We'll work on this again. I don't think this is a black and white issue.”