Colorado legislature introduces two new toll road bills

The Colorado state legislature re-convened for its annual 120-day session on January 9 and without missing a beat, toll road bills are once again front and center.

As Unbossed has documented since 2005, the threat of privatization of public roadways is one of the great political equalizers — energizing average Americans across partisan, class, race/ethnic and economic boundaries.

Two bills have been introduced thus far — one with good potential and other that needs to be killed.

HB 08-1007: Marsha Looper (R-Calhan)
Looper was unsuccessful last year in passing legislation that was intended to improve a hard-fought 2006 bill. Her 2007 bill, mangled by amendments inserted by toll road lobbyists, actually created a whole host of new problems — namely immunity from liability for toll road builders, county clerks and title companies for failing to properly notify landowners and a loophole that allows toll road builders to stall their projects in perpetuity resulting in reduced private property values within the corridor.

The new bill also reduces notification requirements for landowners in the path of a proposed toll road — one of the worst aspects of last year’s bill. According to the Northern Colorado Legislative Alliance, a pro-business lobbying group, “Looper hopes this will help lessen the effect on property values within three miles of the development area. Companies would instead be obligated to inform the local planning commission of their intentions, making the plans available for public viewing.”

Our friends at StupidSlab who have led many of the citizen efforts to block the now-dubbed Prairie Falcon Parkway Express (previously known as SuperSlab, a north-south toll road traversing the entire length of Colorado’s eastern plains paralleling I-25 from New Mexico to Wyoming) are vigorously opposed to the bill.

Rob Dougherty writes:

Rep. Looper has said in several newspapers and on her website that the language in HB-1003 requiring documents to be recorded was a “drafting error” made by the lawyers. I emailed her some time ago asking for an explanation but have had no reply. The language in question is the same language that was in a bill in 2005 that was vetoed by Governor Owens. That bill, HB-1342, was put forward by Marsha Looper’s group, the Eastern Plains Citizen’s Coalition. They hired lawyers to negotiate a bill and lobby for it. So if there was an error she didn’t pick up on it in 2005 nor 2006. Another bill passed in 2006, SB-115, has nearly identical filing requirements. So, three bills were promoted by the eastern plains residents and two of them were signed into law. There was no drafting error. They are good bills and need to be left alone.

Stupidslab’s ally, Good Neighbor also opposes the bill and has a sample letter for constituents to send to the Colorado House Transportation Committee members:

1. HB08-1007 allows the corridor (Prairie Falcon Parkway Express) to continue in existence, but removes notice of its presence from public land records
2 Future landowners, who rely on information recorded with the county clerk, would not learn of the corridor unless sellers tell them
3 Future sellers, knowing how the corridor would impact their sales, would be tempted to not make full disclosure
4 Information about toll roads would be filed with planning agencies instead of with the county recording offices
5 HB08-1007 allows insulation from litigation to the toll road companies, title insurance companies and county clerk and recorders.

HB 1139: Mike May (R-Highlands Ranch)
Directs the Colorado Tolling Enterprise to “evaluate any toll highway offered for sale or for lease and an operating concession by an entity other than the state to determine whether it is in the best interest of the state for the enterprise to purchase or lease the toll highway or a partial interest in the toll highway and to report to the general assembly regarding the results of the evaluation” according to the bill’s language.

This bill is in response to a 99-year lease of the Northwest Parkway, a failing toll road that was facing bond default, to a Portuguese and Brazilian consortium.

The House Transportation and Energy Committee will hear HB 08-1007 on Tuesday, Jan. 29 at 1:30 p.m. MST in Room 107. Live audio proceedings of the first reading will be webcast: audio stream and video stream.

HB 08-1139 has not been added to the committee docket yet.

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