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May 20th, 2009
The Next American System
[VIDEO] The Public Toll

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It is fairly understood that America’s transportation infrastructure is in crisis. In 2008, the Federal Highway Trust Fund –- the primary source of federal transportation funding – nearly went bankrupt. And, it is about to again. Its main source of revenue –- the federal gas tax — has not been raised since 1993 and the cost of maintaining and upgrading the nation’s roads and bridges increased 50 percent in the last ten years.

Short on cash and desperate to find ways to finance transportation, states and municipalities are now considering public-private partnerships to fill the void. In these deals, a private company will pay large up-front fees and will shoulder the costs of managing and sometimes even building a toll road, in return for the rights to keep the tolls. These leases can last as long as 99 years. These deals often contain “non-compete clauses” –- provisions that forbid states or localities from improving nearby existing roads or building new roads or transit systems that might reduce traffic on the toll road.

Public-private partnerships have been used in Europe and South America for decades, but they are controversial in the U.S. Advocates see privatization as an innovative way to address the budget shortfalls caused by inadequate funding of public investment in infrastructure. Critics contend that these deals sell long-term public assets to fill short-term budget needs, and further harm the public good by subordinating local transportation planning to the interests of private toll-road operators.

As of the end of 2008, 15 roads in the U.S. had been privatized, including the Northwest Parkway in Broomfield, CO. 79 other roads were being considered for privatization.

  • Jacob’s Golden Update: Golden and the Beltway Issue Featured in PBS Documentary on Sprawl « Jacob Smith for Golden

    [...] Watch the BONUS FEATURE (3 minutes): This is a very short additional discussion of how Broomfield and other cities commit themselves to keeping their own roads congested for the benefit of corporate interests through “congestion guarantees” when they sign toll highway deals. [...]

  • Dick Sugg

    We watched the program; it confirms that Denver area poorly planned growth and “build it and they will come” highway policy has created urban sprawl and traffic congestion and pollution. The resistance of some in our area to building a modern mass transit system has also kept the Denver region from joining Portland and New York as more people-friendly, efficient, and healthful places to live. The program also illustrates what a bad idea building a new high speed, limited access highway across North Jeffco is; however, our County officials persist in pushing the idea to support development, while pretending that it is needed to meet future traffic demands.

    The Jeffco Commissioners and the Jefferson Economic Council (JEC) must think that we taxpayers who support them accept everything they say without question—never check facts. The latest JEC published Business Images; Jefferson County, Colorado has much misinformation about the proposed Jefferson Parkway (JP) that must be answered. One thing that is clear from the Images issue is that the commissioners and the JEC are beholden to land owners, developers, and realtors for political contributions. They provide unqualified support to building the Jefferson Parkway across North Jeffco to support development; covering open land with residences, businesses, and pavement.

    The NW Quadrant Feasibility Study was conducted by the reputable engineering firm, CH2MHill, at taxpayers cost of $600,000 to evaluate how Northern Jeffco (the Quadrant) could best meet the challenges of growth by 2020 to transportation mobility and anticipated road congestion. The 2000 Report stated that neither of the proposed superhighway/beltway completion links (western route through Golden, and more eastern route down Indiana/McIntyre) would address the growth problem as well as would improving (widening, dividing, creating better interchanges) several N-S arterials through the region. The Report, however, did say that a highway down Indiana/McIntyre would relieve future congestion on Wadsworth (a major Arvada concern) better than would the western beltway route.

    The first full–page ad in Images is for the Candelas mixed use development south of Rocky Flats and north of SH-72. The lead is that the development can be accessed off the “planned Jefferson Parkway extension connecting C-470 to the Northwest Parkway and completing the loop around Denver.” This misleading statement is accompanied by a map showing the proposed JP in red from the west end of the NW Parkway across US-36, through Interlocken, east and south of Rocky Flats, to the SH-93/US-6 corridor through Golden to C-470. This description is of the new 20 mile highway construction Alternative of the unfinished $13.7 million 2004-2008 NW Corridor Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) Study conducted by CDOT; it is not an accurate description of the JP toll highway, which would be only 10 miles from south of Interlocken to SH-93 north of Golden. At no time during the EIS Study was supporting economic development given as a need for the beltway completion.

    Page 9: Of the “Top 10 reasons to do Business in Jefferson County” No. 7. Mobility reads, “Jefferson County enjoys easy access to major arterial highways and to Denver International Airport … and Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport.” The Airport is one place at which the JP is touted to spur development; the other is the huge Candelas project. Arvada, however, has already started construction and their officials have said that they really don’t have to depend on the beltway link for success; access is quite good via SH-93 and SH-72, and will get even better when those highways are widened from two lanes to four. Not mentioning C-470 or the proposed Jefferson Parkway is an admission that mobility in Jeffco is excellent without completing the JP, that there is no need for the toll highway to improve transportation—the only reason for the JP is to support development.

    Page 12: “county government is committed to … investing in the transportation infrastructure TO OPEN NEW AREAS FOR DEVELOPMENT.” The PBS broadcast, Blueprint America: Road to the Future, said that this policy is what has caused Denver’s suburban sprawl and traffic congestion, “Build it and they will come.”

    Page 17: “Jefferson Economic Council 2007 Highlights: Commissioned an economic-impact study on completing the C-470 beltway” Commissioner McCasky said it “studied growth in the northwest quadrant with and without a major roadway and reported it has the potential to nearly double the economic impacts of development in the region—impact over 20 years of business spurred by the roadway will be $17.4 billion, an increase of 94 percent over not building the roadway. The fiscal impact to the county government alone will be $180.4 million in property tax, personal corporate taxes and even sales tax for open space a 98 percent increase that will not occur without the new roadway.” As the study did not compare the growth of the economy with the superhighway to growth with the MetroVision 2030 Transportation Plan without the beltway completion, it is invalid. The badly flawed study used a few point values for critical variables instead of a range of values based on probabilities. The greatest mistake of the study was to base the amount of traffic on the new roadway as on a freeway, not a tolled highway.

    Page 28: The JP Public Highway Authority (PHA) “will tap toll revenue for about half of the project [10 miles from south of Interlocken to SH-93 north of Golden] to accelerate construction from Broomfield through Golden.” The 10 miles ends north of Golden, through which there is no provision to construct a high speed highway as planned for the JP. The JPPHA cannot impose tolls through Golden City limits. Every financial study so far indicates that tolls will not come close to paying for the construction, operation, and maintenance of even the 10 mile half of the beltway link, let alone the other 10 miles.

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