Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Colorado gets pissed, Texas, well...get pissed!

Buying Influence: Colorado lawmaker under fire

Calls to investigate Macquarie deal, as road privatization
continues to draw public outrage in TX & around U.S.

NOTE: As public outrage over road privatization continues to grow, the following developments in Colorado raise concerns over Texas lawmakers who are also members of ALEC and that support legislation which benefits ALEC members Cintra and Macquarie.

(Denver, CO) Colorado's High Performance Transportation Enterprise (HPTE) just released its Fiscal Year 2013 report to growing alarm over privatization and tolling of Colorado's public highways.

Colorado's first privatized highway, US 36, running from Denver to Boulder that operates under a 50 year concession to the Plenary Group is already generating controversy after plans to increase the HOV lane requirement from 2+ people in the car to 3+ were published in the just released HPTE annual report. The change, effective as of Jan 1, 2017 or possibly earlier if congestion grows, will help increase highway revenues by leaving more space in the HOV toll lanes on US 36 and I-25 for paying customers.

"The people of Colorado are shocked to find out that our public highways are being leased for 50 years or more to private sector toll road firms. This is happening behind our backs and without public knowledge," explains Advisory Board Chair of the Drive SunShine Institute (DSI), Ken Beitel. "It's a scandal that I-70 heading up into the mountains and in downtown Denver, and the southwest free section of C-470 are being privatized and made into toll roads. Another billion dollar road privatization deal took a large step forward at the monthly Colorado Transportation Commission meeting."

CDOT privatization pipeline map-click here.

The HPTE was created under the leadership of former state representative Glenn Vaad, who worked for 31 years at the Colorado Department of Transportation in various positions, including legislative liaison and secretary to the Colorado Transportation Commission. As a state representative from 2006 to 2012, Vaad was the ranking chair of the Colorado House Transportation Committee.

The High-Performance Transport Enterprise (HPTE) 2013 Annual Report states:
"Under the agreement, Plenary is responsible for risks associated with the level of traffic in the express lanes and the sufficiency of toll revenues to support repayment of loans, as well as the long-term operation and maintenance of the highway. In the concession agreement, HPTE directors approved a provision that after Jan. 1, 2017, will only allow vehicles with three or more occupants to travel toll-free in the U.S. 36 and I-25 express lanes. Until then, vehicles with at least two occupants, so-called HOV 2+ vehicles, can continue free use of the lanes, unless congestion increases..."

Buying influence
Listed in the report, Buying Influence by watch dog group Common Cause, Vaad has recently come under heavy questioning for accepting 'scholarship' money in 2006, 2007 and 2008 from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an organization dedicated to privatizing public infrastructure and converting state owned highways into toll roads.

ALEC brings together state lawmakers like Vaad, and corporate lobbyists to draft legislation that is later adopted in state houses across the country. Vaad received an ALEC "2012 State Legislator of the Year Award" in part for his work on the ALEC model bill titled: "Establishing a Public-Private Partnership (P3) Authority Act" (click link for bill text).

Co-written by Vaad in New Orleans on Aug 3, 2011 with Geoff Segal, Vice President of Government Relations with Macquarie Capital, the ALEC (P3) bill allows other states to quickly create a privatization authority modeled after Colorado's High Performance Transportation Enterprise (HPTE).

Click here to view leaked ALEC task force agenda - New Orleans August 3, 2011.

"It is time for Coloradans to speak out to stop the theft of our public transportation system - before it is entirely too late," urges Beitel. "People are outraged to find out that I-70 is going to become a toll road."

In 2011 and 2012, while a Colorado state lawmaker, unknown to his constituents, Vaad was also the chair of the ALEC Commerce, Insurance, and Economic Development task force. His job was to advance ALEC's insurance, banking, transportation and infrastructure policies.

Whistle blower ALEC task force memos show that Vaad was literally crafting legislation to privatize highways in partnership with lobbyists from toll road firms Cintra, Transurban and Macquarie Capital (click here for New Orleans Aug 3, 2011 ALEC Task Force Agenda). Now on the CDOT website, each of these ALEC task force lobbyists is listed as a bidder for Colorado highway privatization projects. Here is the question: Is Vaad serving the people of Colorado or his colleagues at ALEC?

Colorado's Transportation Commission is now advancing a proposal from Macquarie Capital for a $1.1 billion privatization and expansion of downtown I-70 that will likely be financed by tollway conversion. According to its website, Macquarie's investment bank had $361 billion of assets under management as of March 31, 2013.

TURF is a non-partisan, grassroots, all-volunteer group defending citizens' concerns with toll road policy, public private partnerships, and eminent domain abuse. TURF promotes pro-taxpayer, pro-freedom, & non-toll transportation solutions. For more information or to support the work of TURF, please visit www.TexasTURF.org.

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