E-470, a public toll highway in the Denver metropolitan area, is developed and operated by the E-470 Public Highway Authority (E-470). The Authority, established in 1988, is a public-private partnership comprised of eight members: Adams County, Arapahoe County, Douglas County, the City of Aurora, the City of Brighton, the City of Commerce City, the City of Thornton, and the Town of Parker. Highway planning, design, and construction were financed with bonds. The 47-mile highway runs along the eastern perimeter of the Denver metropolitan area from I-25 to the south of Denver to I-25 north of the city and services the Denver International Airport. The first five-mile segment was completed in 1991 and the final 12-mile segment was completed in 2003. E-470 is the first national toll highway to offer dedicated non-stop toll collection at highway speeds.
There are many advantages to pursuing the design and construction of a facility with a public-private partnership agreement. Some of these advantages include cost savings, risk sharing, revenue growth, and efficient implementation. E-470 Public Highway Authority draws on the strengths of both the public and private sectors to establish complementary relationships that benefit the traveling public. The operations of E-470 have yielded the following successful programs:
- Leverage the use of transponders to provide volume, speed, and travel time data for the traveling public. E-470 entered into an agreement with the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) allowing CDOT to obtain travel time data from the E-470 detection system and display such data on CDOT’s variable message signs (VMS). E-470 has a detection system that measures vehicle speed and classification (number of axles) using transponders, antennas, and inductive loops. CDOT installed several additional antennas along the corridor to collect the data from the transponders to obtain travel time information which is then displayed on the VMS during peak periods. Although most of the time there is no congestion on E-470, the partnership with CDOT facilitates sharing of information and keeps the public informed about travel conditions. Among other benefits, the information gives drivers an idea of the time it will take to travel to and from the airport. This relationship offers a significant return on investment; CDOT is able to collect travel time data for the cost of a few antennas. They also disseminate level of congestion data via the web at www.cotrip.org.
- Negotiate with outside businesses such as insurance companies to underwrite a portion of the safety service patrol. E-470 also contracts for Safety Patrol services. As another innovative funding initiative, they negotiated an arrangement with State Farm Insurance to underwrite a portion of the service patrol costs in exchange for advertising on the patrol vehicles. The service is now called the State Farm Safety Patrol. This is another example of the types of relationships the Authority can develop as a state enterprise that serves the public interest.
- Utilize decision support systems to improve snow and ice control operations and provide better traveler information. Another good example of a successful E-470 program is their agreement with the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder. Utilizing a decision support system developed by FHWA and NCAR, E-470 roadway maintenance staff can more accurately predict weather conditions and weather impacts on the roadway, allowing them to implement proactive snow and ice control strategies and provide improved traveler information. The proactive response strategies are tailored to their resources and needs, saving time and money. They have 12 environmental sensor stations, nine of which include pavement sensors that provide surface temperature and moisture content. Prior to their relationship with NCAR, the Authority worked with a private firm that provided weather-related information based on subscriber services. However, the information from the service was not route-specific and did not provide enough advance notice to support timely road treatment decisions.
The E-470 Public Highway Authority is a public-private partnership established to design, build, operate, and maintain the E-470 public toll highway. E-470 also provides EXpressToll electronic toll collection services for the Northwest Parkway Public Highway Authority and the Colorado Tolling Enterprise. The goals of E-470 include providing the highest level of safety, service, and mobility for the traveling public. Providing an efficient and responsible investment of resources helps them to meet these objectives. This lesson suggests that by operating under this type of arrangement the Authority can take advantage of innovative financing opportunities such as the agreement developed for safety patrol services. Partnership agreements such as the one E-470 developed with State Farm Insurance helps achieve major ITS goals that include improving safety, productivity, mobility, and customer satisfaction. The Authority draws on the strengths of both public and private entities to develop complementary relationships that contribute to the deployment of a successful ITS project.