The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) announced Thursday that it has chosen the consortium of Kiewit Meridiam Partners (KMP) to perform the $1.2 billion expansion of Interstate 70 through Denver, according to The Denver Post. Four groups submitted bids.
KMP is part of a public-private partnership (P3) with CDOT and the High Performance Transportation Enterprise (HPTE) Board, according to a CDOT press release. KMP will design, build and finance the highway and then operate and maintain it for 30 years.
CDOT officials said KMP's commitment to shortening the five-year schedule by up to six months was a key driver of their decision. KMP will only be able to shut down the highway, which accommodates 200,00 vehicles daily, five times and only on weekends or at night.
The P3 still has to overcome the project's legal challenges, which center on the environmental impacts of a drainage system and contaminated soil from a Superfund site that critics say will be disturbed during construction. City and state officials have also had to deal with the controversy surrounding the demolition of homes and businesses in adjacent minority communities. Some have labeled it as attempted genetriciation of the largely Hispanic area.
The P3 model is becoming an important part of the country's infrastructure landscape as state and local governments try to drum up new funding sources and minimize their own risk of cost overruns and schedule delays.
While the I-70 project is reportedly the biggest surface transportation initiative in state history, Denver officials have put their confidence in another private group. A P3 will carry out a $1.8 billion modernization, renovation and 30-year maintenance program at the main terminal of the Denver International Airport.
Not all states are so receptive to the P3 model. In May, Texas lawmakers voted down a bill that would have allowed $30 billion of highway projects to be performed under P3 contracts, primarily because of the toll component that legislators wanted to make part of the deal. Revenue streams like tolls are what makes many P3s attractive to private-sector partners.
Texas is one of several states that do not give blanket authorization to transportation P3s, but state agencies have engaged in one-off projects. In July, a bankrupt Texas toll road P3 emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization with new management. The original concessionaire experienced financial challenges when toll revenue failed to meet expectations.