Denver Public Works is unable to provide an updated timeline for the MLK extension project. The $16.5 million project to extend the roadway from Havana St. to Peoria St. was supposed to have begun summer of 2016 but has been delayed by the need to update the original “environmental evaluation” (EA) to account for new federal environmental regulations and updated traffic modeling. That re-evaluation resulted in a February conclusion by the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) that noise walls are a “reasonable and feasible” means for mitigating noise impacts on adjacent residences in a three-block stretch of the roadway. Affected property owners will eventually be asked to vote on whether to have the noise walls constructed. The walls would add $1 million–$1.3 million to the project cost. Denver has not yet identified a source of funding to pay for the walls.
The draft EA re-evaluation document is currently in review by CDOT and then will require review and approval by FHWA. Unspecified issues associated with the draft final Environmental Assessment (EA) have not been resolved, according to Department of Public Works (DPW) spokesperson Nancy Kuhn: “From what I understand, CDOT parcels the EA document out to their folks for review and these subject matter experts ask clarifying questions, to which we respond, or they might ask us to add a footnote that references where we got the information. There is not an impasse or specific problem—just back and forth on the document to finalize it.”
Despite repeated attempts by the Front Porch to obtain specifics, Kuhn would say only, “We are waiting for final approval of the Environmental Assessment Reevaluation document … Following approval of the EA document by CDOT/FHWA, we can move forward with the noise wall voting process and ultimately the Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI).”
In February, DPW estimated the noise wall voting process will add a couple of months to the project schedule. At this point, neither that process nor the adoption of the final EA has occurred. A CDOT spokesperson said the EA might be approved by her agency in May. Kuhn said the “current anticipated schedule, not including construction of noise walls, is for construction to begin in summer 2017. Should voters approve one or more sections of noise walls, that timeline could be delayed while funding is sought. A condition of the federal grant requires the project to begin in 2017, however the city could ask for an extension to be granted.” Denver has estimated a one-year construction period.