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NCPPP Exclusive: A Conversation With Colorado’s Outgoing HPTE Director Michael Cheroutes

NCPPP regularly features exclusive conversations with leaders in the public-private partnership community. To participate, contact Barbara Bryant at bbryant@ncppp.org or (202) 962-0555.

Michael Cheroutes is nearing the end of his term as the first director of Colorado’s High-Performance Transportation Enterprise, a position he has held since 2010. In this role, he spearheaded the construction of several projects, including Colorado’s first P3, the two-phase U.S. Interstate 36 ExpressLanes project, which is projected to save the state millions of dollars. He also has been helping the state procure the I-70 East P3.

Cheroutes received NCPPP’s 2014 National Public-Private Partnership Leadership Award for helping Colorado to establish industry-leading practices and deliver new infrastructure for residents far faster than would have been possible with traditional funding mechanisms.

He will participate in a panel during the P3s for Public Buildings Summit, Oct. 22-23 in Washington, D.C. that examines several states’ successful use of public infrastructure P3s.

In mid-October, Cheroutes will become the founder and director of the Colorado Center for Infrastructure Investment. As he embarks on his new role, NCPPP asked Cheroutes to recall the state’s challenges and successes in implementing its first P3s and share his views on future challenges and opportunities.

NCPPP: As the founder and director of Colorado’s High-Performance Transportation Enterprise (HPTE), what milestones are you most proud of and what aspects of your job — and HPTE’s mission — have you found most challenging?

Cheroutes: During its first five years, HPTE established itself, and P3 delivery alternatives, as an integral part of Colorado’s transportation equation. Certainly, the successful close of the US36 BRT/managed lane project — the state’s first toll concession — was an important milestone.

But, as you suggest there have also been challenges, ranging from the Colorado Department of Transportation’s initial reluctance to consider alternatives to traditional financing and to understand the critical importance of public and legislative transparency. We all had lessons to learn.

NCPPP: Are you pleased with Colorado’s use of P3s to pursue transportation projects to date and what do you think the future holds for transportation P3s in the state?

Cheroutes: I am very pleased. We have been able to make progress on important mobility issues using P3s. Going forward, if the right projects are selected for this type of procurement model and are properly conducted and managed, P3s will remain key features of the transportation landscape.

NCPPP: As you prepare to leave HPTE, do you have any advice for those who may wish to explore starting a similar agency in another state?

Cheroutes: Persistence, Patience, and Prayer. Learn from what others have done; we are all willing to share our experience.

NCPPP: Your panel at the P3s for Public Buildings Summit later this month will showcase Colorado as one of three states that have used P3s extensively to meet their public infrastructure needs. Could you provide a glimpse of what you plan to share during that discussion?

I will be able to share a number of Colorado drawing board projects involving public buildings/facilities. The inertial ice surrounding these types of projects is beginning to crack as the public sector learns more about the possible value in the P3 model.

NCPPP: Tell us about why you founded the Colorado Center for Infrastructure Investment. What lies ahead for you and this new venture? In what ways do you plan to continue to promote the use of P3s through the center?

Cheroutes: The center, a non-profit enterprise, is designed to serve as a trusted advisor to public agencies on how to deliver infrastructure across a number of sectors through public-private partnerships. We intend to coach and mentor public sector staff on how to get deals done and to provide transparent links between governments at the state and local levels and the private market place. I am very excited about the center’s potential.

Cheroutes will discuss Colorado’s successful and potential use of P3s during a panel at P3s for Public Buildings Summit, Oct. 23. For more information and to register, visit the event website.

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