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The Uncertain Future of Public Roads

More and more states are privatizing highways and roads. Whether that's a good thing or a bad thing is a matter of increasing debate.
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A few weeks ago, the Colorado Department of Transportation reached a 50-year deal with a private investment group to handle the improvement, maintenance, and operation of US 36 between Denver and Boulder. On paper, everyone seems to have made out well. The state gets money up front, the investors get a share of the toll revenue, and commuters get an upgraded corridor 20 years ahead of schedule. CDOT officials are already hoping that this "first public-private partnership" is just the first of many.

"We certainly look at public-private partnerships as an opportunity to provide additional improvements and services to the traveling public," says spokeswoman Amy Ford, who adds that the department is actively considering similar arrangements for several other major roads — segments of I-70, C-470, and I-25, among them — in the metro area.