CDOT releases statement on I-70 East litigation

Denver — The Central 70 Project was developed after working closely with local neighborhoods, holding hundreds of public meetings, and analyzing more than 90 alternatives. The Project will provide the first safety and mobility improvements to one of the region’s most heavily traveled and congested highways in more than 50 years, while at the same time reconnecting communities with a 4-acre community park built over a lowered section of the interstate.

“CDOT is confident that our unprecedented community outreach process and our thorough technical analysis meet and exceed the standards set by the National Environmental Policy Act,” said Central 70 Project Director Anthony DeVito. “We believe this process, our analysis, and this project will stand up under the toughest legal scrutiny.”

In the Record of Decision issued by the Federal Highway Administration, CDOT made 148 specific community commitments focused on local neighborhoods. Many of these commitments are being implemented right now, including major renovations to Swansea Elementary School. These commitments go well beyond similar projects in Colorado or elsewhere in the United States.

While this litigation proceeds to a resolution in the courts, CDOT will continue to work with residents, businesses and other stakeholders to implement the Department’s commitments to the community — from providing workforce training to home improvements—as well as selecting a team to complete design and build the project.

About the Central 70 Project: The Central 70 Project will remove the 53-year old I-70 viaduct in central Denver, lower a section of I-70 below grade, and construct a 4-acre park over the interstate in the Elyria and Swansea neighborhoods. One new Express Lane in each direction will be added between Brighton Boulevard and Chambers Road. CDOT plans to select a developer team for the $1.2 billion project in late summer and begin construction in 2018. For more information on the Central 70 Project, visit http://central70.codot.gov.

Additional question and answers

How will this lawsuit affect the project — will design and construction stop until it is resolved?

The Central 70 Project will continue to move forward while the court considers the case, as it does in most cases of this type.

Will this lawsuit impact CDOT’s current community commitments?

At this time, no. CDOT has already provided $15 million in improvements to Swansea Elementary School; that work is underway now and on schedule to be complete before the 2017/2018 school year begins. CDOT is also partnering with a private foundation to establish a comprehensive workforce development and construction training program to support the Project’s local hiring goals.

The Record of Decision also includes a commitment to deliver home improvements to an estimated 300 homes and to provide a $2 million contribution to affordable housing.

Is CDOT concerned about the safety of the viaduct if there is a delay?

The I-70 viaduct is being closely monitored by our bridge engineers. In June, another series of repairs were made after several post tension rods (which essentially hug the structure together) failed and sprung loose from the bridge.

CDOT will continue to keep the structure safe to use. However, any significant delay in the Central 70 Project could mean additional costly repairs, weight restrictions, and possibly an emergency bridge replacement, which would involve rebuilding the viaduct in kind with a new six-lane bridge.

Has CDOT fully examined impacts on air quality as a result of the Project?

Yes, CDOT conducted a comprehensive analysis of the air quality impacts of the Central 70 Project following guidance and protocols set by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. This work, which accounts for the growth in traffic through the year 2040, has shown that the Project meets all national health-based air quality standards set by EPA. CDOT would not have received Federal approval for the Project without making this determination.

Did CDOT evaluate options to reroute I-70?

Yes, CDOT has examined options that would reroute portions of I-70 at many different junctures over the 14- year study process. The concept of entirely moving a section of interstate that serves hundreds of thousands of commuters and freight vehicles every day is not a reasonable alternative nor is it one that would benefit local communities. At an estimated $3.2 billion cost, a reroute would result in significant traffic increases to the local street network and the construction of a major six-lane boulevard through Elyria and Swansea that would need to serve some of the region’s largest freight distribution centers.

How has CDOT addressed concerns about environmental justice neighborhoods next to I-70?

CDOT has provided an unprecedented level of public involvement tailored specifically to communities adjacent to I-70 in order to find ways to improve the project and lessen its impacts. Through this process, the following specific and innovative commitments were developed:

  • Lowering the highway and providing a cover with urban landscape adjacent to Swansea Elementary School.
  • Providing residents close to the highway construction with storm windows, furnace filters, attic insulation and two free portable or window-mounted air conditioning units
  • Providing $100,000 to facilitate access to fresh food
  • Providing an HVAC system and new doors and windows for Swansea Elementary School, plus two new additional classrooms
  • Providing $2 million in funding to support affordable housing in the Elyria and Swansea Neighborhood
  • Providing eligible residents of Globeville, Elyria, and Swansea with free transponders, pre-loading of tolls, or other means to reduce barriers to using the Express Lanes after the project is completed

How did CDOT analyze future traffic demands along I-70?

Traffic forecasting for the Central 70 Project was done using the 2035 Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG) trip-based travel demand model, which is the latest Compass model released by DRCOG. Compass is a regional model that applies projected land use data, including population and employment growth, to project future traffic conditions. This model incorporates household and employment data for the region and accounts for roadway and transit projects, including the East Corridor commuter rail line.

DRCOG owns and maintains this regional base model that incorporates every municipality within the DRCOG region, which includes the nine counties of Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Clear Creek, Denver, Douglas, Gilpin, Jefferson, and the southwest portion of Weld County.  Each alternative considered in the Final EIS was incorporated into DRCOG’s base model to determine future travel forecasts within the study area. These projections were used to determine the number of lanes needed for each alternative to accommodate future traffic growth.

Is the Central 70 Project dependent on the drainage improvements planned by the City of Denver?

The drainage system for the Central 70 Project described in the Record of Decision is a standalone system that is separate from the City’s projects proposed for City Park and Park Hill.  The I-70 system is independent, and includes a series of underground pipes and detention ponds.  It has been designed for flows assuming the City’s projects are never built.  Improvements made by the City of Denver might enable CDOT to build a smaller system of pipes and detention ponds.  However, unless the City builds its system, CDOT will proceed with its independent design.  If future changes are needed to the Central 70 drainage system, those will be separately evaluated prior to the start of construction.