Rendering of CDOT's plan to expand I-70 through Denver. It would include a four-acre park over one section in the Elryia-Swansea neighborhood.

(Rendering courtesy of CDOT)

The federal government has dismissed a civil rights complaint over the planned $1.2 billion Interstate 70 expansion in north Denver.

The project, in the works for 15 years, would demolish the viaduct that carries I-70 over several historic north Denver neighborhoods that are mostly Latino and among the most polluted in the nation. The plan calls for the roadway to be lowered below grade and widened.

Community groups alleged last fall that the project would disproportionately impact Latino residents. But in a letter of finding released Thursday, the Federal Highway Administration said that the plan is less discriminatory than the alternatives.

Earthjustice attorney Joel Minor (Editor's note: Joel Minor is not related to the author), who represented the residents, said the federal government's review was insufficient.

"Our arguments aren't even mentioned" in the letter of finding, Minor said. "The data we submitted isn't mentioned. Really, this is just a rubber stamp from the Trump administration on a project that's going to displace 200 people from their homes."

Colorado Department of Transportation spokeswoman Rebecca White said the review started last fall under the Obama administration and was thorough.

"They took this very seriously, as they should have," White said, adding that the FHA's review was an "outside and clear-eyed" look at the Central 70 project. 

Construction is set to begin in 2018, White said.

Residents can't appeal the FHA's conclusion, Minor said. Community activist Candi CdeBaca said she and others will keep fighting the expansion. 

"This is by far not our only or last lever for change," she said.