Auditor criticizes I-70 planning process as CDOT chief retires

November 7, 2014
Clone of Photo: I-70 north Denver project map
A $1.8 billion plan would place Interstate 70 below grade through north Denver, allowing for a landscape cover over the highway that would help re-connect neighborhoods.

Gov. John Hickenlooper announced Thursday that Colorado Department of Transportation Executive Director Don Hunt will step down from his position. 

“From the beginning, Don communicated that he would not be a two-term executive director," Hickenlooper said in a statement. "Don has set up CDOT for success and his successor has big shoes to fill,” pointing to Hunt's leadership during the last year’s floods.

One day earlier, Denver Auditor Dennis Gallagher wrote a letter to Hunt, criticizing the department over the proposed $1.8 billion expansion of Interstate 70 through north Denver.

Gallagher has complained in the past that the expansion doesn't make sense for Denver. But on Thursday, he accused CDOT of "circumventing legitimate processes" by soliciting firms for the currently unapproved expansion of I-70.

CDOT spokeswoman Amy Ford says they can't wait until the final design is settled on before starting to consider who the state will hire to do the work and manage the toll lanes.

"It is absolutely not the case that we are done talking to the public. We still have an environmental impact process that we are going through, but we also feel it’s very important to talk to the public about how we would design, deliver and finance this project," she said.

CDOT's I-70 project has been met with some criticism. In September, officials opened a period of public comment for feedback about their plan to address congestion and complaints that the highway divides neighborhoods.

Though his resignation was announced Friday, Hunt will remain at CDOT for "several months anticipating the transition to a new cabinet member early next year," according to the release.

CPR's Mike Lamp contributed to this report.

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