Mandatory traffic jam

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In my reading about public-private partnerships, I had heard about non-compete clauses for privatized toll roads in Texas, where government was forbidden by its contract with the private toll road operators from making any improvements to public roads that might draw traffic -- and revenue -- away from the toll road.

But there's a public-private toll road partnership with a non-compete clause that required local government to make a parallel road more congested. The toll road is E-470 and the state is Colorado:

When E-470 opened in 2002, some people thought it was a strange coincidence that, about the same time, the speed limit on nearby Tower Road, a paved, 2-lane, rural highway, dropped from 55 MPH to 40 MPH. Several apparently unnecessary traffic signals also appeared. This, in spite of the fact that after the toll road opened, Tower Road would have even less traffic than it did before.

Well, it was no coincidence.

The lower speed limit and extra traffic signals, which make Tower Road slower and less convenient to use, are required by a "non-compete" clause in an agreement between the E-470 Public Highway Authority and nearby Commerce City.

The goal is to impede traffic on Tower Road so drivers will decide they are better off using the toll road. This protects the revenue stream from the tolls, thereby protecting the interests of the toll road's investors.

The non-compete clause between the highway authority and Commerce City provides that the speed limit on Tower Road be lowered from 55 MPH to 40 MPH, and that stop lights be installed on Tower Road at 96th, 104th, and 112th Avenues. Also, the City must limit future improvements on Tower Road to shoulder work, turning lanes at intersections, development-specific widening, and normal maintenance. These requirements must remain in effect until January 1, 2008. After that, the speed limit can be raised, the stop lights can be removed, and the City is again free to make improvements to Tower Road.

The other non-compete clause is in an agreement with the Cities of Aurora, Brighton, and Thornton, the Town of Parker, and Adams and Douglas Counties. It provides that, for at least fifteen years, these entities will not construct or improve any road (with certain pre-approved exceptions) that competes with E-470 "in a way that the amount of toll revenues projected by the Approved Plan of Finance to be collected from the users of E-470 would be materially impaired or reduced."

Can we all agree that this kind of practice is just plain wrong? But it's exactly the sort of stipulation that these PPP contracts will have in order to make them profitable and attractive to investors.

Imagine if the City of Tulsa's arena management contract with SMG included a requirement on the city to, say, levy a $10 a ticket tax on movies and concerts at smaller venues, so as to channel pent-up demand for entertainment to arena events and ensure that SMG met its performance targets.

(I found this story in a list of examples of blogs from across the political spectrum doing original reporting, covering stories that the traditional media had missed.)

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7 Comments

XonOFF said:

You give the Mayor's office any ideas on raising revenues and we can probably expect to see it soon.

I'm starting to see the advantage of something I casually tossed out a couple of years ago, but it's making more and more sense as time goes on.

What if any contract by any public official which has a term more than one year longer than the term of the elected offical responsible for it, required a public vote to authorize?

That would put an end to Bob Dick's 10-year no-bid fair contracts, and also require a vote of Tulsans on a City Hall relocation/demolition.

Somehow, it seems fair that those actually having to live with these decisions should have some say, especially when the instigators are gone in a couple of years and leave us holding the bag, literally.

Somehow, 40-year water contracts comes to mind.

JW said:

Oh thanks a lot, you just gave SMG and the city a good reason to run Cain's under.

Bob said:

Dismally, I am no longer shocked to read of ever new and innovative ways for our anointed politicians to sell us out, to allow certain connected interests to game the system, or for a few to be granted unearned privileges paid for by the many.

We must look past the politician puppets to discern who the real Puppet Masters really are. They are the ones pulling the strings, and making decisions that effect our lives.

And, for those despicable politicians that voted to allow the speed limit to be lowered and unnecessary traffic lights installed so that MORE congestion would occur and thus benefit the adjacent toll road and further exploit their hapless fellow citizens, then the politicians deserve:

To be hung from their heels from those self same traffic lights until the putrifying flesh rots from their bones.

Jeff Shaw Author Profile Page said:

We have to be careful who we vote for. It's not a popularity contest - they are supposed to represent us, not be a front for big business deals. It's disgusting, and not a far fetch around these parts.

On a lighter note...

Will there actually be any pent up demand for the KISS, Captain & Tennille, Three Dog Night, and the Monster Truck Show?

Jeff Shaw Author Profile Page said:

I just thought of something. Just throwing this out there. What's with all the lights on Riverside drive within the last five years, and how has that affected the traffic on from downtown to I-75 to the Creek Turnpike? Probably coincidental...

bob said:

Riverside Drive at one time had only one traffic light: At 21st and Denver.

And, as a result, traffic ON Riverside Drive really moved efficiently to and from downtown. This lasted for many years. Until they added the Traffic Lights, turning ONTO Riverside from the side streets could be tough, however, especially at the major Streets......

Then they slowly added traffic lights, beginning at 31st Street near the Pedestrian Bridge, and later at 41st. Then 51st, 61st, 71st, 81st, 91st.......

Now, Riverside Drive is just as slow as any other street. No synchronization of lights anywhere in town except maybe downtown, but since I don't work downtown anymore I'm not positive they are still synchronized.

At one time, you could drive 23 miles per hour downtown, and once you started, you'd clear every light on Green.

Paul Tay said:

Hey, they forgot to ban bicycles on the toll road!

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on August 23, 2007 11:38 PM.

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