"The project is too important to delay the close and to accept the risk that would come with a 60-day delay," Hunt said outside a committee hearing room in the state Capitol shortly after testifying before the
Hunt said investors are lined up and bond buyers are ready to purchase the debt to finance the road-widening effort on
To send a signal at this point that the process might not move ahead on schedule, Hunt said, could jeopardize the
"It's ready to close in the next two weeks," he said firmly.
But not before a crowd of hundreds turned out in
On Wednesday evening in
They also criticized CDOT for not revealing details of the contract before it is finalized, and only releasing a summary of it when pressured. CDOT has refused to publicize the entire 600-page contract based on the assertion it contains proprietary financial information.
'We can do better'
At the state Capitol Thursday, CDOT officials got the chance to defend the contract in front of the joint transportation committee and expound on what they say is the critical role public-private partnerships play in a time of constrained budgets.
They were joined by several prominent former and current public officials -- including
Hunt acknowledged that CDOT did not do a good job communicating with the public about what the contract with Plenary means. An online petition, at change.org, requesting that state lawmakers get a chance to review the
"We wouldn't be here today if we had done a good job on public outreach," Hunt said. "We can do better."
He told the committee that public-private partnerships are vital in an economic environment where CDOT has had to fall back to a "maintenance budget" because it's not getting general funds anymore.
At the same time, he said, the gas tax hasn't been increased in more than 20 years. CDOT relies on the tax to fund road construction and maintenance projects throughout the state.
"We need use the private sector to leverage projects faster and more efficiently," Hunt said of public-private partnerships, or P3s.
And improvements to
The U.S. 36
"We have continuing oversight abilities," he said.
'Well written' contract
CDOT got some assistance at the committee hearing from Toor, who for decades has worked on mobility improvement on
It will provide riders of bus rapid transit a 24-minute savings over a car traveling in the free, general purpose lanes at rush hour between
He also addressed the controversial plan by CDOT to increase the threshold for high-occupancy vehicles starting in 2017 from two occupants to three -- known as HOV3. The idea ran up against a lot of resistance among local officials, he said, but in the end it was determined that the priority was to ensure that the managed lanes move quickly, especially when it comes to bus service.
And raising the threshhold for high-occupancy vehicles made the financial math work for the project.
"We didn't love it but we were willing to support it," Toor said.
Critics have said moving to HOV3 will dramatically discourage carpooling due to the difficulty of coordinating schedules with a third person.
Toor told the joint committee that he is generally comfortable with what he knows about the agreement between Plenary and the state and said it's an effective way to move the project forward in the face of what was a glaring "financing gap" to getting the western portion of the road to
"We don't want to see the
Appelbaum said government enters into contracts with the private sector all the time, citing a third party's running of the Dushanbe Tea House in
"It's done in order to make something happen that wouldn't happen otherwise," he said.
Compared to a lot of public-private agreements he's familiar with, Appelbaum said, the one between CDOT and Plenary Roads Denver "is very well written."
She said the
'Problematic for generations'
He said it's not even clear to him that CDOT couldn't have come up with the money for the second phase of the 18-mile project rather than handing over operational control to a private entity.
Jones praised the myriad of local public officials who over the past decade or so put together the plan to reconstruct
"Local officials have done a great job, but it's this last piece of it that is problematic and it will be problematic for generations," he said.
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