Colorado Highways:
Public Highway Authority Tollways

The State of Colorado and CDOT can't be everywhere. So, cities and counties pick up the slack in various ways. Several tollways in Colorado are operated by a public highway authority (PHA), which gets permission to run from the Public Highway Authority Law (Title 43, Article 4 of Colorado Statutes). It gives jurisdictions (cities and counties) of the state the power to enter into intergovernmental agreements to create PHAs and to finance, build and operate tollways.

The Public Highway Authority Law had a dicey beginning. It was first introduced in the Colorado Legislature in January 1987. SB 247 was sponsored by Sen. Dave Wattenberg and Rep. (later Governor) Bill Owens. There were some key areas of debate, which included finance possibilities other than tolls, maximum sizes of PHA districts, and requirements of public elections. The initial version of SB 247 had provisions which would allow a PHA to impose a $25 annual vehicle registration fee, a 0.5% sales tax, and a $2 per employee business tax, all without a public vote. SB 247 was defeated on the last day of the legislative session in June 1987.

However, Governor Roy Romer called a special session in August 1987, and SB 247 was modified to reduce the vehicle registration fee to $10 and the sales tax to 0.4%, each which now required a public vote. SB 247 then passed by wide margins in both houses and was signed by the Governor.

In the version that became law, PHAs have the power to

However, PHAs do not have the power to do anything with local surface streets, nor can they incur debt in their name. Member jurisdictions must issue bonds on a PHA's behalf.

The PHA is governed by a board made up of one representative from each member jurisdiction. Usually it's a city council member or county commissioner. The member is appointed by the jurisdiction's governing body.

Two tollways in Colorado, E-470 and the Northwest Parkway, operate as PHAs. One PHA, Jefferson Parkway, is actively planning for another tollway. One other, W-470, was organized but then folded for lack of financing.

E-470 (Extension 470) Public Highway Authority

Created: February 1985 by an agreement among the counties of Adams, Arapahoe, and Douglas, and the city of Aurora. Reorganized to be a PHA when the PHA Law passed. Website

Member Jurisdictions:

  • Adams County
  • Arapahoe County
  • Douglas County
  • City of Aurora
  • City of Brighton
  • City of Commerce City
  • Town of Parker
  • City of Thornton


Non-Voting Affiliate Members:

  • City of Arvada
  • City & County of Broomfield
  • City of Greeley
  • Weld County

Ex-Officio Members:

  • CDOT
  • Regional Transportation District
  • Denver Regional Council of Governments

Taxes in Place: $10 vehicle registration fee in each member jurisdiction, passed in a November 1988 election

Roadway & History:
The E-470 Tollway is a freeway which forms the eastern beltway of metro Denver. The first segment opened in 1991 with the tollway being completed in January 2003. For all additional information, go to my E-470 page.

Jefferson Parkway Public Highway Authority

Created: May 22, 2008 (Website)

Member Jurisdictions
Taxes in Place: None

History: Broomfield and Arvada have always been at the forefront of wanting to see the northwest portion of Denver's beltway completed. With C-470, E-470 and the Northwest Parkway completing the majority of it, CDOT began an environmental study in 2003 on closing the gap between Golden and Broomfield. The study was abandoned in 2008 when CDOT concluded that infighting among the northwest metro stakeholders and lack of state financing made the study pointless.

Arvada, Broomfield and Jefferson County jumped into the vacuum left by CDOT and formed the Jefferson Parkway PHA. Currently the Authority is in planning mode only, with no construction on the immediate horizon. One major accomplishment occurred in 2012 with the Authority purchasing a 300 foot-wide swath along the eastern edge of the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge. The Authority will use the parcel for any future tollway built between Golden and Broomfield. The parcel was part of a swap that included another parcel of land near SH 72 and SH 93 being given to the RFNWR.

Northwest Parkway Authority (Operated by Brisa/CCR)

Created: June 20, 1999 Website

Member Jurisdictions:

  • City & County of Broomfield
  • City of Lafayette
  • Weld County


Ex-Officio Members:

  • CDOT
  • Regional Transportation District
  • City of Arvada
  • Interlocken Metropolitan District

Taxes in Place: None.

The graphic on the right comes from the January 12, 1999 Rocky Mountain News.

The Northwest Parkway opened November 24, 2003. The routing ("Broomfield segment" in the graphic) is from US 36 at the Interlocken Loop/StorageTek Drive interchange northeast to near Dillon Road at 104th Street, east along the Dillon Road corridor across US 287, northeast so that is near the 160th Avenue area when it crosses Huron Street, and then southeast to I-25 at the E-470 interchange. There are interchanges  at Sheridan Parkway and US 287/Dillon Road. The Sheridan interchange opened after the highway, in November 2005.

The portion of the Northwest Parkway on existing Interlocken/StorageTek (96th Street) past Interlocken and Flatiron Crossing Mall is a 45-mph signalized arterial. North of the 96th Street signal it turns into a 70-mph full freeway.


The Authority used private money, not taxes, to finance the construction bonds, so no public vote was required as with W-470 or E-470. Bonds worth $386M were issued in early summer 2001. The final cost of the tollway was about $415M. When Brisa/CCR took over operation of the road in 2007, part of the agreement was paying off the Authority's outstanding bonds.

The Northwest Parkway Authority leased out the roadway in 2007. A 99-year concession agreement (signed August 29, 2007) was signed with the venture of Brisa Auto-Estradas of Portugal and Companhia de Concessoes Rodoviarias of Brazil (known as Brisa/CCR).

Under the $603M deal, Brisa/CCR will operate and maintain the toll road for 99 years. While the Authority will continue to own the road, Brisa/CCR will be responsible for toll & fine collection, maintenance and improvements to the tollway. The agreement allows Brisa/CCR to raise toll rates at the toll plaza to $3 by December 2009. Starting in 2010, they can then raise tolls each year based on inflation with a minimum of 2%. One odd provision of the agreement stipulates that the Authority must compensate Brisa/CCR for lost revenue if Brisa/CCR can prove a new, adjacent transportation facility results in lost revenue (with the noted exceptions of the US 36 and Northwest Rail transit corridors). The agreement also sets aside up to $100M for future improvements to the parkway, including extensions south to SH 128 and west to SH 93.

Brisa/CCR operates tollways across Europe and Brazil, but this was their first foray into the U.S. The concession agreement came about because toll revenue was below projections and the Authority was facing problems making debt payments. The concession agreement became the most attractive option to settle outstanding debt, with Brisa/CCR paying off all $503M in debt bonds the Authority still owed.

Early History:
The Northwest Parkway Authority is the successor of W-470. Broomfield has always been the Parkway's biggest supporter. The city has been quietly acquiring the right of way for years, and orienting comprehensive land use plans around it. In mid-September 1998, the Northwest Parkway Project Non-Profit Corp. became essentially an arm of Broomfield, run by the mayor, the city manager, a city council member, someone from the Interlocken Business Park, and Steve Hogan, former Executive Director of the E-470 Authority. That coalition laid the groundwork for the formation of the current Northwest Parkway Authority.

For a look at the remainder of the northwest beltway, go to the Denver's 470 Saga page.

W-470 (Western 470) Public Highway Authority

Created: April 1987

Member Jurisdictions:

Taxes in Place: $10 vehicle registration fee rejected by voters in a February 1989 vote

The 32-mile W-470 Tollway would have started at the SH 470/I-70 interchange near Golden, and then gone north and northeast to hook up with I-25 at E-470. W-470 would have completed Denver's beltway. The roadway would have been a tollway and run in a manner similar to E-470.

The Authority voted to suspend operations due to lack of financing on July 15, 1992. Go to my Denver's 470 Saga page for the full story.


Last updated 8 February 2015