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 Colorado Department of Transportation announced Thursday its preferred contractor for a massive, $1.2 billion plan to rebuild Interstate 70 through north Denver.

Kiewit/Meridiam Partners, a consortium of private companies, is the top choice to finance, design, build, operate and maintain the Central 70 Project. The transportation department and the group are now in negotiations, said Rebecca White, CDOT's I-70 project spokeswoman.

"We were looking for really three things,” White said. “A team that could deliver this project on budget, on time and with technical excellence and innovation. Kiewit-Meridiam partners checked all of those boxes."

Kiewit has a long history in the state. The group worked on an Interstate 25 expansion in south Denver, the Northwest Toll Parkway, the renovation of Union Station, and the boring of Eisenhower tunnel.

"This is not our first go at this type of partnership,” said Joe Wingerter, a vice president for Kiewit Infrastructure Group.

If all goes to plan, the consortium will help finance the project up front and then collect revenues over a 30-year period.

The plan to widen I-70 from six lanes to 10 lanes over a 10-miles stretch has been in the works for 14 years. Under the plan, a crumbling viaduct the carried the roadway over the Globeville and Elyria-Swansea neighborhoods will be demolished.

Construction is set to begin in 2018. But several lawsuits filed by environmental and community groups could affect that timeline.