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DENVER - Opponents of privatizing a part of US 36 plan a two-pronged attack on Wednesday: in the court of law and in the court of public opinion.

As the board in charge of the privatization plan meets to finalize an agreement with a company called Plenary Roads Denver, an opposition group called The DriveSunshine Institute plans to both picket the Wednesday meeting and announce a lawsuit against the Colorado Department of Transportation.

The suit alleges CDOT did not properly conduct its environmental-impact study of the proposed project, which DSI claims will cause a dramatic increase in pollution.

CDOT says the environmental-impact statement was conducted more than six years ago with "extensive public involvement, public hearings and coordination with local government."

The group also plans to present an online petition against the privatization project at the Wednesday meeting.

The planned deal with Plenary would bring in private money to put towards construction, which investors would earn back with profits by collecting tolls on a new express lane for 50 years.

Carpoolers will be able to use the express lane toll-free. However, as part of the arrangement, CDOT is planning to change the required number of occupants from two to three in order to qualify for toll-free access in 2017.

From the investors' point of view, this sweetens the deal by encouraging more people to pay the tolls.

From DSI's point of view, the change will be a disincentive people to find a second person to share their ride, because it's harder to find a third person heading to the same destination.

CDOT has the legal authority to sign the contract under a 2009 state law aimed at boosting construction work on highways. The agency plans to sign the deal by the end of the month.

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