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Neighbors have mixed reactions to CDOT's Mile High Switch

Traffic being shifted off elevated I-70 for good
I-70 westbound at Josephine
Posted at 8:41 PM, May 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-21 22:41:56-04

DENVER -- This is the last day you can drive on the elevated portion of I-70 in Denver.

At 10 p.m. Friday, CDOT will close I-70 from Brighton Boulevard to Colorado Boulevard, and begin "The Mile High Shift," transferring both east and westbound traffic onto a newly constructed, below grade, segment of I-70.

CDOT Central 70 Project spokeswoman Stacia Sellers told Denver7, it's all about demolishing the aging viaduct.

Once the traffic shifts to the new below grade lanes, work crews will begin tearing down the elevated portion of I-70, and will then construct additional below grade lanes.

The newly built portion, which opens Monday, will eventually be westbound only lanes, while the section still to be built (in the viaduct's footprint) will eventually be eastbound only.

CDOT contractors have spent the last three years scraping the area just north of the freeway, and digging out soil for the below grade replacement.

Many people who live next to the highway, or who use it frequently, can't wait till it's done.

"It's been really noisy. You can't sleep at night," said Vanessa Chavez, who lives on the north side of I-70, along Josephine.

Chavez said the contractor's heavy equipment shakes her house.

"It feels like an earthquake," she said.

Martha Reyes, who lives just south of I-70, said she wasn't a supporter of the widening project at first, but has changed her mind.

"I'm glad they decided to do it," she said, "because it will help move traffic."

She said it will also lessen the danger of accidents.

She recalls one car "flying" off the viaduct ten to 12 years ago, hitting a power pole and landing in the alley.

"He died," she said, talking about the driver.

And it's not just noise and "flying" cars that are a concern to neighbors.

Joseph Steele said he's concerned about pollutants in the soil that has been and will be dug up for the widening project.

He said several decades worth of diesel particulates have rained down from elevated I-70, so has the product placed on the highway's surface by CDOT crews in the winter.

He said you couple that with car fluids from accidents, and fumes from nearby industries, and you have cause for more concern as work crews prepare to dig into the soil for the second half of the below grade section.

"Do you feel that wind," he said. "It carries dust."

He said the first part of the construction project brought a lot of dust into the neighborhood.

"There were times when people could say, look, see it? It was just falling in the air. That's not good," Steele said.

CDOT said air quality monitors placed near I-70 will alert contractors when dust reaches a certain level.

Sellers told Denver7 that contractors must stay within certain noise parameters, or they'll have to provide hotel vouchers for adjacent residents.

"So folks off Brighton Blvd are going to be getting hotel vouchers as a result of the viaduct demolition," she said.

Sellers added that the eastern section of the Central 70 project, from Quebec to Chambers, is essentially complete.

She said the middle section, from Colorado Boulevard to Quebec, which will include the replacement of four bridges, should be done by fall of this year.

She said the western section's viaduct demolition, which begins next weekend, should be completed in about four to five months, and that the overall project should be done by the end of next year.

Sellers said the project cost, tabbed at $1.2 billion, is still on target.