The I-70 expansion project, from I-25 to Tower Road, received a major boost Jan. 19 when the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) announced its “record of decision” (ROD) ending the federal review process of the highway project and its environmental impacts. CDOT anticipates selecting a partner contractor this summer, followed by a four–five-year construction phase.
Project opponents would prefer that I-70 in this area be converted to a grade-level boulevard and that I-270 be expanded to carry the I-70 through traffic. They have filed a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over a change to how it measures air quality, making it easier for the project to comply with clean air standards. A separate lawsuit challenges the city of Denver’s proposal to convert part of the City Park Golf Course into a storm detention area, part of a larger “Platte to Park Hill” storm drainage project that will benefit CDOT’s Central 70 highway reconstruction. In November, the lawsuit survived a Denver motion to dismiss. And local neighborhood groups and the Colorado Latino Forum have lodged a federal civil rights complaint alleging severe environmental and economic impacts on the predominantly Latino communities of Globeville, Elyria and Swansea. The federal Department of Justice is investigating that complaint.
Rebecca White, CDOT public affairs director for the project, notes that none of the lawsuits thus far directly targets the roadway expansion project itself. “For a big project like this, we wouldn’t be surprised if there were additional (legal) challenges,” White said. She said she expects the civil rights investigation “to get resolved very soon and we plan to keep moving forward with the project.”
White said, “During the study process, CDOT looked at the reroute concept and found that considerable traffic currently using I-70 would divert to the local street network. For example, would a Stapleton resident headed downtown follow I-270 north, traveling miles out of direction or would they take MLK or Montview or Colfax? This is on top of the hundreds of freight-dependent businesses currently on I-70 that would be left with a city boulevard to navigate. This idea simply doesn’t make sense.”