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Financial terms released recently for the controversial Interstate 70 expansion through northeast Denver show that a partnership agreement will cost the Colorado Department of Transportation an estimated $2.2 billion over the course of more than 30 years.
Provided by Colorado Department of Transportation
Financial terms released recently for the controversial Interstate 70 expansion through northeast Denver show that a partnership agreement will cost the Colorado Department of Transportation an estimated $2.2 billion over the course of more than 30 years.
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Denver Mayor Michael Hancock’s administration can move forward with planning for a public-private partnership office after the City Council on Monday approved a consulting contract expansion that had been held up for months.

That office, as envisioned, would vet potential partnerships of a type that often involves the infusion of private money and control into public projects. Public-private partnership deals (called P3s) also introduce complexity and a longer duration than a standard government contracting arrangement, as with Denver International Airport’s recent 34-year, $1.8 billion terminal contract.

City officials envision a potential role for P3 deals to help pay for components of several upcoming projects, including an expansion of the Colorado Convention Center, the National Western Center project and changes to the Denver Performing Arts Complex.

But as Hancock’s administration has worked out a framework for how such deals would be proposed and considered, council members raised objections about a particular idea: ending the council’s traditional role as the final arbiter on big contracts when it comes to P3 arrangements.

Hancock’s office agreed to hit pause on the contract request, and it since has backed down on that point, agreeing to retain final council approval for future deals. It also heard out council members on other concerns.

Councilwoman Robin Kniech said that dropping the proposed change for the council’s role was key.

“The council can’t give up that kind of authority,” said Kniech, who has favored a council role in vetting not only a contract’s terms but the city’s private partners and a project’s design. “Voters gave it to us for a reason, so I think it’s important to make sure that we keep the ability to review contracts for all those things.”

The bargaining chip was a $480,000 contract addition for Arup Advisory Inc., a consultant that has advised the city on the development of P3 policies and prep work for the launch of the city’s program and P3 office next year. New York City-based Arup already had earned $475,000.

The council approved the additional money for Arup in a block vote Monday.

Last summer, several council members objected to the offer by the administration to give the council a formal voice only in setting parameters for partnership negotiations, rather than in approving the final deal.

Kniech, who spoke after Monday’s vote, said she and others stressed the importance of keeping council members more closely informed throughout the process.

City officials plan more discussions with the council in coming months before they seek council approval for money to launch the P3 office.

“At that point, I will need to see much better detail on the role of council members in the development of these deals,” Kniech said.

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