North Denver residents sound off passionately on $1.8 billion I-70 proposal

Photo: I-70 illustration
This artist's rendering shows what a overhauled Interstate 70 northwest of downtown Denver could look like. For more illustrations, click here.

It "makes no sense." It “kind of sucks.” The cost is “indefensible.”

Those unhappy statements are excerpts of comments from public hearings published Thursday on the planned transformation of Interstate 70 northeast of downtown Denver.

The Colorado Department of Transportation says it received almost 900 comments through public hearings, the agency’s website, email, and other channels. The $1.8 billion proposed project would tear down the viaduct between Brighton Boulevard and Colorado Boulevard, lower the highway below grade, build a landscaped cover over the road, and add four toll lanes between Interstate 25 and Tower Road.

The interstate, built in the 1960s, isolated the Globeville and Elyria Swansea neighborhoods from the rest of the city to the south. About 125 of 900 comments were from people in those and other neighborhoods near the project area, said Amy Ford, a spokeswoman for CDOT.

Many of the comments were made at public hearings and were largely opposed to CDOT’s plan.

I guess what I want to say is that if I had my preferences, I would prefer them to not rebuild the highway, not in the proposed capacity. To me, 10 lanes of traffic through a populated area is a bit ridiculous. I've lived here my whole life. I'm 58 years old. I was born in the house I live in. I would prefer to die in the house that I live in. With this coming, I don't see how that will happen.

Comments also touched on the ongoing pollution issues in the area. A city of Denver report from earlier this year says that residents of Globeville and Elyria Swansea experience a higher incidence of chronic health conditions, including asthma.

The highway itself, the emissions from the traffic from the trucks, from the cars, from whatever motor vehicles going east and west on the highway is kind of detrimental a little to my health. I'm on oxygen. There's particulates, small grains of grit, sand, dirt, whatever you want to call it, in my house all the time. It's all over the cars. Like I said, I've lived here my whole life, and I put up with it, but I think adding more traffic it is going to just increase it.

Many of the residents support rerouting I-70 north to I-76 and I-270, a scuttled plan that CDOT says would be too costly.

There are many cities around the country that have successfully diverted highways going through a large population area. By expanding the highway, it's going to cause more traffic concentrated in a high population area, which could cause all kinds of health issues. I can tell you my father—who never smoked— died from asthma because he lived a half block off I‐70. I don't smoke. I kind of sound like I have asthma, but I don't right now.

Comments from the greater Denver area also favored that rerouting plan, Ford said. While comments from neighborhood public hearings were impassioned and trended negative, those from governmental agencies, businesses and special interest groups were more technical and mixed.

"People have a lot of opinions. This is such a big project," Ford said, adding that CDOT plans to respond to every comment.

CDOT says the comments will be included in a final environmental impact statement in late 2015.

“The number of comments CDOT received certainly reflects the level of interest in this project and it is not unusual to receive hundreds of comments on a project of this size,” Kirk Webb, I-70 East National Environmental Policy Act manager, said in a press release.

The next step in the process, CDOT says, is to find funding for the project. The state expects the Federal Highway Administration to make a decision on the project in 2016.