Private firm proposes takeover of I-25 improvements, toll management

For years, the Colorado Department of Transportation has struggled to find funding for expansion and improvement projects along the high-growth stretch of Interstate 25 between the northern Denver suburbs and Fort Collins. Now a private company is proposing to take over the burden of financing some of those improvements in exchange for future toll revenues. 

Roadis USA Holding LLC, a Denver-based subsidiary of the Public Sector Pension Investment Board of Canada with operations in North America,  Brazil, India, Mexico, Spain and Portugal, submitted an unsolicited proposal to CDOT and its High Performance Transportation Enterprise division, which oversees Colorado toll roads and public-private transportation partnerships. The move came after CDOT last year lifted a moratorium on the receipt of such proposals.

Segment 5 of Interstate 25 improvements. Courtesy Colorado Department of Transportation.

Roadis wants to “help the state find ways to finance projects that have been on the drawing board for a number of years without an imminent funding possibility,” Roadis USA president and former HPTE director Michael Cheroutes said Wednesday during a presentation to the North I-25 Coalition, a working group made up of elected officials from cities and counties along the corridor north of Denver. 

CDOT has split its overall I-25 North improvement plan into eight segments, with Segment 1 beginning at Denver’s Union Station and Segment 8 ending at Prospect Road in Fort Collins.

Roadis’ proposal, which was crafted with input from civil engineering firm Horrocks Engineers Inc., involves management, improvements and expansion between Segment 2 and Segment 5, with the majority of work occurring in Segment 5. The company’s plans include adding:

  • Auxiliary lanes and other safety and congestion enhancements in Segment 2 (from U.S. Highway 36 to 120th Avenue).
  • New bridge and transit hub at 88th Ave.
  • The extension of express lanes in Segments 3 (from E-470 to Colorado Highway 7) and 4 (Colorado Highway 7 to Colorado Highway 66).
  • The extension of express lanes in Segment 5 (Colorado Highway 66 to Colorado Highway 56). 

Roadis officials said CDOT will not have to provide any additional funding beyond what’s already been allocated by the state, but it’s unclear whether there are any additional financial conditions involved. Nor is it clear whether Roadis’ ability to collect tolls would be limited to a certain number of years. 

“For the first time in a while we have a shot at providing some financing for completion of this project,” Cheroutes said.

In Northern Colorado, CDOT is taking on a large-scale widening and interchange upgrade project along the interstate between Fort Collins and Johnstown.

Funding for the multi-hundred-million dollar project is coming from federal, state and local governments.

According to CDOT, highlights of the roughly seven-mile Segment 5 improvement project between Colorado Highway 66 and Colorado Highway 56 should include:

  • Two general-purpose lanes and one tolled Express Lane in each direction.
  • Accommodations for three general-purpose lanes and one tolled Express Lane in each direction in a future ultimate condition.
  • Full-width shoulders.
  • 12 new bridges
  • Incorporation of intelligent transportation systems, which use technology and sensors to improve traffic flow and safety
  • Four through-lanes and sidewalks on Weld County Road 34
  • Four through-lanes and sidewalks on Colorado Highway 56
  • Express bus facilities with car pool parking lot, ramp pull-offs, and pedestrian connections at Colorado Highway 56 interchange
  • Removal of sharp curves on I-25
  • Improve frontage roads

CDOT estimates that these Segment 5 improvements would cost between $264 million to $368 million.

It’s unclear whether CDOT will require Roadis to undertake all of these improvements or simply install and manage the toll lanes. 

“The scope of the project, as far we’re concerned, is flexible,” Cheroutes said.

“The High Performance Transportation Enterprise can confirm it has received an unsolicited proposal from ROADIS for a project on I-25 North,” CDOT spokeman Timothy Hoover told BizWest in an email. “Because of our policies governing unsolicited proposals, we cannot release any further details on this submission at this time. The proposal is in the earliest stages of HPTE’s process, and we will be able to comment more once it moves further through the process.” 

Cheroutes said he is “not sure” when Roadis will receive feedback from CDOT on its proposal, but he is “hoping [it is] sooner rather than later.”

Should CDOT choose to move forward with specific projects proposed by Roadis, the department would have to open those projects up to a competitive bidding process. 

Roadis is no stranger to bidding on CDOT toll road management projects.

Roadis has offered E-470 Public Highway Authority $9.2 billion to lease the E-470 roadway for 50 years and collect toll payments in exchange for managing and maintaining the road.

A volunteer group called E-470 Citizen Review Committee studied Roadis’ proposal and determined in January that more consideration is needed prior to issuing a recommendation.

“While the committee did not endorse the ROADIS bid, we clearly found merit in the proposal and the concept of a public-private partnership on E-470 to leverage the value of this well-run, well-maintained public asset,” former Aurora mayor Bob LeGare, who chaired the Citizen Review Committee, said in a prepared statement in January. “After several public meetings, presentations and discussion within our subcommittees, our members felt that additional discussions are needed within the E-470 communities to better understand the potential benefits and pitfalls of leveraging the tollway.”

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Editor’s note: This story has been corrected to reflect that Roadis solicited the E-470 Public Highway Authority, not CDOT, to lease the E-470 roadway.

For years, the Colorado Department of Transportation has struggled to find funding for expansion and improvement projects along the high-growth stretch of Interstate 25 between the northern Denver suburbs and Fort Collins. Now a private company is proposing to take over the burden of financing some of those improvements in exchange for future toll revenues. 

Roadis USA Holding LLC, a Denver-based subsidiary of the Public Sector Pension Investment Board of Canada with operations in North America,  Brazil, India, Mexico, Spain and Portugal, submitted an unsolicited proposal to CDOT and its High Performance Transportation Enterprise division, which oversees Colorado toll roads and public-private transportation partnerships. The move came after CDOT last year lifted a moratorium on the receipt of such proposals.

Segment 5 of Interstate 25 improvements. Courtesy Colorado Department of Transportation.

Roadis wants to “help the state find ways to finance projects that have been on the drawing board for a number of years without an imminent funding possibility,” Roadis USA president and former HPTE director Michael Cheroutes said Wednesday during a presentation to the North I-25 Coalition, a working group made up of elected officials from cities and counties along the corridor north of Denver. 

CDOT has split its overall I-25 North improvement plan into eight segments, with Segment 1 beginning at Denver’s Union Station and Segment 8 ending at Prospect Road in Fort Collins.

Roadis’ proposal, which was…