Colorado State Archives
Executive Orders from the Administration of Governor Bill Owens 1999-2005
Ladies and Gentlemen:
I am filing with the Secretary of State House Bill 05-1342 "Concerning private toll roads and toll highways, and, in connection therewith, specifying requirements that must be met before a corporation can construct a private toll road or highway" and Senate Bill 230, "Concerning private toll roads, and, in connection therewith, prohibiting a private corporation from acquiring rights-of-way for a toll road or toll highway through the exercise of eminent domain and requiring the transportation legislation review committee to recommend a process by which a private toll road or a toll highway may be constructed." I vetoed these bills as of 9:21 a.m. and 9:20 a.m. today and this letter sets forth my reasons for doing so.
I have always been a strong advocate for private property rights. Eminent domain should be a tool of last resort, and must include, safeguards and oversight to protect landowners. For example, last year I signed House Bill 04-1203, which places legitimate restrictions on eminent domain in the cases of urban renewal. However, S.B. 230 does not provide these safeguards and oversight but rather repeals eminent domain for private companies entirely and, as a result, make prohibitive possible the investment of private dollars in our public infrastructure. There is no question that common-sense regulation of private companies' use of eminent domain powers is appropriate and necessary. I am eager to engage in the 2006 legislative session in a process to enact quality legislation to address the very concerns contained in these bills.
These two bills are far too broad and sweeping to effectively address potential problems with eminent domain while preserving the ability of private companies to invest in and build toll roads in Colorado.
Private investment in Colorado's transportation infrastructure is needed now more than ever. Next year's funding for the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) is expected to be more than 40 percent below what it was in FY 2002-03. Despite these reductions, Colorado's transportation needs have continued to increase. Private toll roads are one of the tools that can be used to expand Colorado's transportation infrastructure at a time when state funding for transportation is shrinking.
H.B. 1342 includes a number of important provisions that would protect the State and its citizens while at the same time assisting private companies desiring to construct a private toll road or toll highway. For example, the bill requires a corporation to provide written notice of its intent to build a toll road to all landowners whose property might be affected. In addition, it requires a corporation to obtain land use approval from all the relevant cities and counties, and to comply with all CDOT standards in planning, constructing, and maintaining the road or highway. These provisions are all very important. However, the poorly drafted environmental provisions of this bill negate these benefits.
H.B. 1342 also creates unnecessary state-level environmental process. Under the bill, CDOT and Colorado Transportation Commission would be the decision maker under this new environmental process. However, because the bill references federal statutes and regulations, neither CDOT nor the Commission would have any authority to amend or improve the process. What may work for the federal government in California or New Jersey might very well be unworkable in Colorado.
S.B. 230 repeals a private company's ability to use the power of eminent domain to acquire any part of the right-of-way for a private toll road or toll highway. While I believe that a 19th century statute providing private condemnation authority may not be appropriate in the 21st century, S.B. 230 would unfairly and needlessly roll back the progress and innovation that has marked Colorado's use of private toll roads. Rather than placing reasonable safeguards and oversight on the use of eminent domain, this bill prohibits private condemnation authority and therefore effectively prevents the potential investment of billions of private dollars in Colorado's public infrastructure.
The Transportation Legislative Review Committee will be considering the issue of private toll roads during the interim. I would encourage the legislature to revisit the issue of private toll roads, and rather than prohibiting them outright, consider establishing appropriate standards, accountability, oversight and conditions on private toll roads and the corresponding condemnation authority. I have confidence the TLRC can spend the interim developing well-reasoned legislation for next session and I look forward to participating in these discussions.
For these reasons, I have vetoed H.B. 1342 and S.B. 230.
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