DALLAS - A campaign by Golden, Colo., to discourage investment in a privately funded tollway on the city's periphery will not halt the project, an official with the Jefferson Parkway Public Highway Authority said.
"All of the companies that might be involved in this are very sophisticated and have done projects all over the world," said Bill Ray, interim executive director of the authority. "And they're going to do their own analysis to decide whether this is a project they want to be involved in."
Golden, a suburb west of Denver that has long opposed the last link in a loop around the metro area, this week said it would be taking its case directly to investors after failing to convince neighboring cities that the parkway is a bad idea.
The 10-mile section would connect the existing Northwest Parkway to U.S. 93 that passes through Golden. The tollway would effectively close the loop that began with C-470 south of Denver, the E-470 tollway to the east, and Northwest Parkway north of Denver.
Local governments that created the authority include the cities of Arvada and Broomfield and Jefferson County, of which Golden is the county seat.
Golden has sent a detailed letter and 48-page accompanying report to the firms that responded to a request for expressions of interest issued by the authority to build and operate the toll road, which would extend a partial beltway around the Denver area. Golden also has sent the letter and report to rating agencies and others.
Golden officials say the supporting governments "have become fixated on the fantasy of luring a private investor to underwrite the cost of the Jefferson Parkway. As a result, these local governments are not focusing on realistic transportation solutions needed to ease the region's congestion."
Golden is taking its case to 48 firms that expressed interest in the project after a request for letters from the authority.
The city hired consulting firm CRA International to study the prospects of the tollway. CRA concluded that the parkway would attract few drivers and, as a result, insufficient toll revenues to cover the cost of building and operating the road.
"All available information suggests that the Jefferson Parkway would be an exceptionally bad investment that will not provide any return to investors," according to the letter from Golden city manager Mike Bestor.
Golden has also offered to pay an independent consultant $10,000 for a separate study.
"We're disappointed that this overall issue has come to this point," said Golden Mayor Jacob Smith. "However, we've concluded that this may be the only way to inject a dose of reality into this important discussion."
Ray said that Golden has opposed the loop for 15 years, presenting it as a conflict between neighboring or overlapping governments.
"They employ a variety of tactics but they all have the same message," Ray said. "The first part is that nobody's going to use it, and the second part is that we're going to choke on all the traffic."
Golden's concerns about urban sprawl are unfounded because the parkway would skirt dedicated open land near the former Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant that has become a nature preserve and other park land, Ray said.
In terms of the new tollway's prospects, Golden has some ammunition in the history of the Northwest Parkway, a bond-funded project that was sold to Brisa Auto-Estradas de Portugal and Companhia de Concessoes Rodoviarias (Brisa/CCR) of Brazil. The private operators paid $603 million in 2007 for a 99-year concession.
Since then, toll projects have taken a downturn.
In May, the Florida Department of Transportation received no bids from any of the six respondents that had shown interest in leasing an existing 78-mile-long toll road known as Alligator Alley.