"These are the sort of protections that an investor would want to see," says land-use attorney Putnam. "If they're buying this road, they don't want to see competition that would prevent potential cars from paying tolls on their road. They want to see that there's enough congestion, enough difficulty getting around on the free roads so that people always have to go on the toll roads."

"What we know is that private investors almost always insist on these things," Smith says. "And you've got Kevin McCasky and Kathy Hartman as lead champions on building this thing. Yeah, they're saying they don't believe in congestion guarantees, but at the same time they're saying let's go to the market and see what happens. They know that the market insists on congestion guarantees, so either they're setting themselves up for failure or they're holding open the option of congestion guarantees. Either way, it's crazy.

"The JPPHA wouldn't be able to impose a congestion guarantee on Golden," he continues. "But if I lived in Arvada, I would be very concerned."

Golden mayor Jacob Smith
Mark Manger
Golden mayor Jacob Smith

On January 1, E-470 raised tolls by fifty cents, as did the Northwest Parkway. This was the second time that Brisa has raised tolls since taking over the Northwest Parkway a little more than a year ago; it now costs a driver $3 per trip to use the road.

At its meeting January 15, the JPPHA board will start developing the terms of whatever deal they'll offer a private partner in the Jefferson Parkway. With the Northwest Parkway, all the politicians who made the deal and the citizens who voted for them will be long gone, while their children and their children's children continue to pay tolls to a foreign corporation until Brisa's lease expires in 2106.

It could be just as long — if not longer — before all the concrete dust settles over the Jefferson Parkway.

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