Saturday, January 21, 2006

Colorado deals with eminent domain

The Senate passed a bill which would prohibit private toll-road developers from using eminent domain. So says the Denver Post. I think what they meant to say was that the state cannot use eminent domain to get property which is permanently sold to private toll-road developers. Actually, they meant to say what they said, they are just trying to garner support and be partisan. Nowhere in the country do private corporations have the ability to use eminent domain. It is a power reserved to the state and federal governments.

Now, in this case I happen to agree with their point of view. This is supposed to be a straight news piece. Report the news, not your bias, even when I agree with it.

My view, in case you care. The latest tollway put in, "The Northwest Parkway", is a great help to me. It was done in a public/private partnership. The state did wind up having to use eminent domain, but they did a fair job of trying to minimize the impact on the property owners affected. A private firm built the road and they get the tolls for the first few years. They will leave a reserve fund for maintenance and then turn ownership over to the state. My hope is that the state will be smart enough to farm out to similar (or the same) private firms to run it for a cut of the tolls going forward.

This arrangement got us a very well made road that completed way ahead of schedule (what was the last public road project that completed ahead of schedule or even on time?). It is better maintained than any state road around. It is cleared of snow earlier and more frequently than state roads. It gets me to the airport in half the time it used to take. It takes traffic off of the state roads which non-toll-payers use. This seems like a good use of eminent domain to me (my personal comfort aside).

The idea of having the state use eminent domain to get property and permanently turn it over to a road developer seems like a bad one to me. It is too likely to produce abuse. Politicians are just too easily bought off. Sorry, that is politically incorrect, they are too easily influenced by large campaign donations.


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