LOUISVILLE, Colo. (CBS4) – After a heated public meeting Wednesday in Westminster over a deal that would allow a private consortium to operate the Boulder Turnpike, the venue for a scheduled meeting in Louisville Thursday evening has been changed to accommodate more people.
The location for the meeting in Louisville has been changed from the Louisville Recreation Center to the former Sam’s Club store located at 555 McCaslin Boulevard. It is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.
The plan to privatize US Highway 36 has been getting lots of criticism, as was evident at Wednesday’s public meeting that saw about 250 people pack a Westminster meeting room. Most of those who attended denounced the deal.
The project would add one bus lane and one toll lane in each direction along US 36 between Federal Boulevard and Table Mesa Drive. The Colorado Department of Transportation is turning to a private company to build the lanes, and that company will charge tolls.
Residents who attended the meeting didn’t like what they know about the plan, and they were upset CDOT didn’t need the public’s input to move forward.
“When we privatize these institutions, okay, it breeds corruption,” one man sternly said at the meeting to a roar of agreement from the crowd.
The raging crowd released frustration on CDOT for hours. They are angry CDOT cannot release details on the contract that pays private firm Plenary Roads 50 years of future tolls on US 36, the main highway between Denver and Boulder.
“People have only seen a summary, not the entire 600-page document,” another man said.
Plenary Roads, an international firm, is ready to pay upfront to widen the highway by 2015. CDOT says without their private help that project would not be finished until 2035.
“How many people in the audience are willing to pay a tax increase to improve roads if we don’t make this contract?” CDOT spokesperson Amy Ford asked the crowd. Many of them raised their hands.
That sentiment is not held statewide. Repeated attempts to raise taxes to pay for construction have failed. Tolls on the express lane will make users of US 36 pay for the upgrades.
“We have asked for a 60-day review period. What they have told us is that they would then miss the construction season,” said Rep. Tracy Kraft-Tharp, D-Arvada.
Kraft-Tharp is one of 15 Democrats asking for the review because she hasn’t seen the contract CDOT wants to sign, even though she’s a member of the state House Transportation Committee.
CBS4’s Stan Bush asked Kraft-Tharp if she thought CDOT was walking the state into a bad deal.
“No, I do not think CDOT is walking the state into a bad deal, but I think there needs to be transparency,” Kraft-Tharp responded.
CDOT will now have to answer to the state legislature and directors from CDOT and the tolling program will have to testify in front of the Joint Transportation Committee on Thursday.