Mike Foote: U.S. 36 and corporate veto power

Representative Mike Foote, The Daily Camera
Dec. 29, 2016

Corporate influence over our government is widespread and nowhere more apparent than on our highway to Denver.

Much has already been written about the coming Jan. 1 change on the U.S. 36 managed lanes from HOV 2 to HOV 3. I do not agree with the change, nor do many of Boulder County’s elected officials. But here’s the problem: it doesn’t matter what we think and it doesn’t matter what you think. That’s because the impending change was included in the contract signed four years ago after closed-door negotiations between state officials and the Plenary Group, the company that built the managed lanes and now collects the tolls charged to those who drive on them without a passenger or (soon) two.

In its public statements and telephone town hall meetings, the Colorado Department of Transportation and its High Performance Transportation Enterprise maintain that the HOV 3 switch is designed to keep the managed lane from getting too crowded. That’s true, but only half of the story. The 2013 contract called for a switch to HOV 3 in January 2017 regardless of how crowded the lane was at the time. Any modification of that predetermined date would be a breach of contract and subject the state to massive penalties. In other words, we must switch to HOV 3 in 2017 even if the managed lane were as empty as a gym on New Year’s Eve.

The Plenary Group was not elected or appointed, of course, but it has more power over a public highway than any citizen, legislator, or even the governor.

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