Lawmakers ask for state audit of U.S. 36 privatization deal

Work is already underway on U.S. Highway 36 as part of a public-private partnership deal that will allow the companies paying for repairs to control the road for the next 50 years.

Work is already underway on U.S. Highway 36 as part of a public-private partnership deal that will allow the companies paying for repairs to control the road for the next 50 years.

DENVER — The controversial deal to privatize U.S. Highway 36, giving a consortium of private companies paying for repairs to the Boulder Turnpike control of the road for the next 50 years, is done.

But the concerns from residents along the transportation corridor still haven’t been satisfied — and that’s why a group of state lawmakers from the area are calling for a state audit of the deal itself.

“I think there are still a lot of unanswered questions about the project, and the public has a right to know,” said Rep. Mike Foote, D-Boulder, one of 14 lawmakers who signed a letter Tuesday asking for an audit of the project by the state’s Legislative Audit Committee.

Although the public-private partnership was worked out over a the last two years with input from the state and from mayors and officials in cities along the highway, the public didn’t get wind of the implications — mainly, the length of the deal ceding control of the road to private companies — until the final stages of the project.

The letter requests that the audit examines how and when public input was sought and whether all financial details of the deal were disclosed.

“The procedure that was followed this time has implications for the future,” Foote said. “If we’re going to do these kinds of deals in the future, then I think we should do them right.

“The public should have a very substantial say if you’re doing a 50-year deal.”

Foote is also sponsoring a piece of legislation introduced last week that calls for greater transparency on public-private partnerships.

The proposal, Senate Bill 197, was up for debate in the Senate Tuesday afternoon, but the committee hearing the bill delayed a vote on it until Thursday.