Critics heatedly attacked a 50-year deal Feb. 12 that would allow a private consortium to operate the main highway between Denver and Boulder, saying it will last too long and puts the public at risk.
The Colorado Department of Transportation called a public meeting amid widespread criticism of its proposed contract with the consortium, Plenary Roads.
Plenary would perform $425 million in construction to add toll lanes. The consortium would then collect all the tolls and maintain and plow the highway.
Two lanes in each direction would remain free.
About 250 people packed into a meeting room in Westminster, and many of the speakers denounced the deal, The Denver Post reported.
“Fifty years is an insane amount of time,'' Mike Skirpan of Boulder said. “Where is our protection?''
“You never, ever sell a public entity to a private interest,'' said Denver-area resident William Johnson. “This is going to be a disaster.''
CDOT defended the proposed contract, calling it “airtight'' with provisions to protect residents and to allow the state to oversee the highway.
“We've got a good partner here,'' said Michael Cheroutes, director of CDOT's High Performance Transportation Enterprise, which will oversee the management of the highway.
CDOT said it would take 20 years before there would be enough public funding for such a project. The deal is expected to close by month's end.