"Super Slab" opponents making pitch to Owens: The Denver (CO) Post, 5/24/05

The governor has hinted at a veto for one of two bills intended to block a huge toll road on the plains

By Colleen Slevin, Associated Press

Eastern Plains residents who have fought plans to build a private toll road near their homes are trying to pressure Gov. Bill Owens to sign legislation that would make it more difficult to build such highways.

Opponents of the so-called "Super Slab" project plan to rally Saturday at the state Capitol and also have been e-mailing the White House and the Republican National Committee to draw attention to their cause.

Owens has hinted he could veto at least one of the two bills lawmakers rushed to pass before heading home - a measure that would bar private companies from forcing landowners to sell their land in order to build roads.

Ray Wells, the man behind the project, which is officially called the Front Range Toll Road, has said Senate Bill 230 would block such projects because a few landowners could refuse to sell.

Owens has said he fears it could prevent future private road projects at a time when the state doesn't have enough money to pay for transportation needs.

"No bulldozers are lining up in Elbert County this summer. There is plenty of time to study what should be done," Owens spokesman Dan Hopkins said Friday.

Sharon Croghan, a rally organizer from Adams County, said many people from eastern Colorado have supported Owens because they see him as an advocate of private-property rights. She said vetoing the bills would be inconsistent.

"We're trying to make the point to the governor that this is really important to us. We think a private corporation having that power unchecked is wrong," she said.

Owens, who supported the public-private partnership that built the E-470 toll road east of Denver, is less concerned about the second bill, Hopkins said. House Bill 1342 would require private road projects to follow the same environmental and other regulations required of public roads.

Croghan and rally organizer Patty Sward of Elbert County said they don't support Wells' current proposal but recognize that another road may be needed to help ease congestion partly caused by people who have moved to the country but commute to work in Denver.

They just don't want to see a private company making all the decisions about where and how it should be built.

"When you take that government oversight piece out of it, you're talking David versus Goliath and you're also taking David's slingshot away," Sward said during a telephone interview as she sat in stop-and-go traffic on Interstate 25.

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