Boulder Chamber backs CDOT on U.S. 36

BOULDER – Leaders of the Boulder and Denver chambers of commerce on Thursday issued a joint open letter expressing their organizations’ support of the public-private partnership to manage U.S. Highway 36 that has faced heavy public scrutiny in recent weeks.

Boulder Chamber president and chief executive John Tayer and Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Kelly Brough wrote that failing to invest in improved transportation infrastructure hurts the economy and quality of life alike.

“The long-term strength of our economy depends on improving this main artery that links two employment and education centers that are critical to Colorado,” Tayer and Brough wrote. “Transportation is a critical factor in our ability to attract and retain companies. Businesses want assurance that their workforce can easily get to and from work and goods can efficiently reach customers. Right now, that’s often not the case across our region.

“After review, we are confident that this pubic-private investment in U.S. 36 will provide significant positive returns for our communities and the rest of the Northwest region.”

The Colorado Department of Transportation’s Express Lanes Project adds a new toll lane to U.S. 36 in each direction between Boulder and Denver. The lane will also be used for bus rapid transit and carpool vehicles carrying three or more people. The project also refurbishes the existing general-purpose lanes and adds a commuter bike lane.

Plenary Roads Denver was chosen in April through a bid process to manage the highway and collect tolls on the new express lanes. But the contract with CDOT defining the public-private partnership has come under fire recently by lawmakers and citizens who say there was too much secrecy surrounding the deal.

Specifically, people have been upset about aspects of the contract that raise the definition of a high occupancy vehicle from two to three people as it relates to being able to use the toll lanes for free, as well as the fact that tolls for a round trip from Boulder to Denver could rise to as much as $28.

The letter from Tayer and Brough lauded CDOT for its acknowledgement of transparency concerns and for releasing the full contract with Plenary amid the public outcry. The letter also stated that public polling has indicated that increased transportation funding is unlikely to come from taxpayers.

“With that in mind, the Colorado Department of Transportation responded with a timely and smart solution for the gridlock on U.S. 36 that’s proven to work in other communities,” the letter stated. “As a matter of fact, they did just what so many citizens have asked them to do: they pursued an innovative and cost-effective approach to help mitigate traffic congestion.”

While much of the outcry has come from the public and elected officials in the state legislature, several local communities and leaders are in favor of the project.

Boulder mayor Matt Appelbaum and former Broomfield mayor Pat Quinn both spoke to the legislature in support of the project last week. City of Louisville officials have also been supportive.

Broomfield deputy city and county manager Kevin Standbridge said Broomfield has been “enthusiastically supportive” of the highway project and in tune with developments throughout the process of seeing the project come to fruition.

“It improves transit reliability and frequency on the U.S. 36 corridor and will at least slightly relieve current congestion on the highway,” Standbridge said.

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