Public-private partnerships are alive and thriving in Colorado because of leadership from the Colorado Dept. of Transportation, the Regional Transportation District and the City and County of Denver. P3 projects benefit from Colorado’s Integrated Project Delivery statute, which was enacted in 2007 and permits all state agencies, municipalities and special districts to deliver capital projects through any combination of design, demolition, construction, operation, maintenance and finance.
CDOT’s High Performance Transportation Enterprise (HPTE), under the leadership of Director Mike Cheroutes, is expanding the Boulder Turnpike (U.S. 36) on a P3 basis. The turnpike originally opened in 1951 as a four-lane divided highway—one of Colorado’s first motorways —with only one interchange between Denver and Boulder. Sixty years later, it is still four lanes but now has 10 exits and a hugely increased traffic flow.
At $310 million, Phase 1 of the U.S. 36 expansion was awarded on a design-build basis in 2012 to the Ames-Granite joint venture. It includes one buffer-separated, managed lane in each direction, Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) ramp stations, auxiliary lanes between most interchanges, and a bikeway, all of which extend from Federal Boulevard in Denver to 88th Street in Louisville/Superior.
Existing bridges and structures are being replaced and shoulders widened. The managed-express lane will give a clear lane for BRT, high-occupancy vehicles and tolled single-occupancy vehicles. Phase 1 also includes intelligent transportation systems for tolling, transit and traveler information and incident management.
Phase 2 will complete the expansion of the remaining six miles of U.S. 36 from 88th Street to Table Mesa/Foothills Parkway in Boulder. Phase 2 was recently awarded on a financed P3 basis for design, construction and 50 years of maintenance. The maintenance element includes snow and ice removal along the length of the expanded U.S. 36, plus the express lanes on the link to I-25 from its junction with U.S. 36 into downtown Denver.
CDOT received qualifications statements from four teams, shortlisted three, and then on April 5 selected Plenary Roads Denver. The team consists of the Plenary Group, an international infrastructure developer with P3 expertise, HDR Engineering, Ames Construction and Granite Construction, and Transfield for maintenance. Goldman Sachs is the team’s financial adviser.
According to Cheroutes, the capital cost with reserves for Phase 2 is approximately $170 million. He says, “For us, the motivating factor is that this agreement shifts toll risk entirely to the concessionaire, which is unusual for projects of this type.”
CDOT also moved forward on April 10 with plans for the I-70 East project between I-25 and Tower Road, including the I-70 viaduct in Denver. This 12-mile stretch is another of Colorado’s early freeways, now inadequate for modern needs. The first two miles east of I-25 will be suppressed below grade to re-integrate the neighborhoods split when the viaduct was first built. The estimated total capital cost is $1.8 billion.
In addition to partnering with CDOT on the U.S. 36 BRT lanes, RTD is using P3 delivery for six projects in its FasTracks program. The I-225 light rail line extension was the subject of a 2012 unsolicited design-build proposal from Kiewit Infrastructure Co. After a competitive bidding process, the project was awarded to Kiewit. The team includes AECOM and Hatch Mott MacDonald, with RBC Capital Markets serving as RTD’s financial adviser. The capital cost is $350 million.
The extension, with routing through Aurora City Center, will be the connecting link between the existing Nine Mile station at I-225 and Parker Road and the planned Peoria/Smith station on the East Line headed to Denver International Airport. The line runs 10.5 miles and includes eight stations. Field construction started in March, with completion anticipated for 2015.
On February 22, 2013, RTD received an unsolicited proposal from the Canadian company Graham Contracting Ltd., for the 18.4-mile North Metro Line that will connect Denver and Commerce City, Northglenn and Thornton in Adams County. RTD has not provided public details of the proposal, but it is believed to be a design-build, operate-and-finance project delivery. RTD’s current budget for the North Metro Line is $978 million, with $90 million currently available for the first leg from Denver Union Station to the National Western Stock Show complex.