Colorado toll road moving forward

News The Denver Post August 29, 2006
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Promoters of the Front Range Toll Road have renamed their venture the Prairie Falcon Parkway Express and recently filed papers with state officials to move the project forward, the Denver Post reported.

The so-called Super Slab would be a 210-mile toll highway and rail corridor from north of Fort Collins to south of Pueblo, through parts of seven counties east of Denver and Colorado Springs.

By state law, property owners who might have their land taken for the transportation corridor had to be notified of the plan, said Jason Hopfer, spokesman for the toll project. The owners of 4,000 land parcels in a 3-mile swath along the entire length were sent "official property-owner notices" by certified mail beginning Monday, Aug. 28, Hopfer said.

"We not only don't believe we need it, but we don't want it," said Marsha Looper, an El Paso County property owner who has been a leading opponent of the Super Slab, which critics call "Stupid Slab."

The toll project's current 3-mile-wide corridor would divide her family's property.

The toll, rail and utility operation will need only a 1,200-ft-wide right-of-way within the 3-mile corridor, but proponents do not know precisely which 1,200 ft are needed, Hopfer said.

The toll project "is just another name for a land grab," said Looper, who chairs the Eastern Plains Citizens Coalition and Colorado Citizens for Property Rights. She also is running for the Colorado House in November.

"It will never pay its own way," Looper added. "We're going to fight to protect Colorado [from] becoming a wasteland of toll-road corridors."

The Prairie Falcon toll effort is led by developer Ray Wells. The road would cost an estimated $2.5 billion to build, according to the newspaper.

A new state law requires promoters of private toll roads to complete a detailed environmental review and plug into state and regional transportation planning efforts. It also specifies the 3-mile initial width.

Officials of the Prairie Falcon project pointedly said that it would be the Colorado Department of Transportation, and not the private toll-road company, that would condemn and take property for the project if it wins approval, the Denver Post reported.

Proponents of the toll project have not started environmental or traffic and revenue studies yet, Hopfer said. The analyses, which could cost millions of dollars, are required if Wells' group is to win state and local government backing for the effort.

"We're pulling together an investment group to do the studies," but the makeup of that group isn't final, Hopfer said. "All see the long-term value in an infrastructure project of the type we're proposing."

To critics who say there's no need for the toll road, he added: "You would be hard-pressed to drive up and down I-25 and not see the need for an alternate north-south corridor."

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