Residents continue to voice concerns about I-70 expansion after feds approve project

$1.2 billion I-70 construction would begin in 2018
Posted at 9:58 PM, Jan 24, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-25 00:32:34-05

DENVER -- Signs in Bettie Cram's front yard let everyone know how she feels about the I-70 expansion: let's just say the feisty senior is not happy about it.

"I don’t know exactly why that came around, but it was a very bad idea and we have fought it ever since," said Cram.

She joined more than 100 residents Tuesday night to discuss concerns related to the project and what to do next. Councilman Rafael Espinoza and former Denver City Auditor Dennis Gallagher organized the town hall meeting.

"I’m just very distressed that our officials have not questioned some of the solutions and statistics that the Colorado Department of Transportation has come up with," said Gallagher.

Last week the Federal Highway Administration green-lighted the project. CDOT will begin holding public meetings next month and is moving forward with securing contractors. Construction is expected to get underway in 2018.

CDOT's Executive Director, Shailen Bhatt, held a Facebook live conversation during the town hall meeting. He said, "That record decision was 13 years in the making and in that 13 years we’ve gone through we've looked at different alternatives."

Despite federal approval, residents opposed to the project are hoping for a change or delay. They continue to express concerns about environmental and social justice issues tied to the expansion. A federal civil rights investigation and several lawsuits are still ongoing.

A spokesperson for CDOT said in a phone interview, "We strongly feel the solution of the lowered alternative is working to meet the needs of the community, commerce and connection in the area." She said she was also confident that CDOT included neighbors in the plans, calling the outreach program "unprecedented." 

Opponents are also troubled by a flood mitigation project at City Park Golf Course, which is the subject of an ongoing lawsuit. Flooding concerns tied to the I-70 project are a real concern in the surrounding neighborhoods. Denver City Council's most recent budget priorities would ask for $80 million to control flooding in Globeville.

"Part of the frustration as a member of council with some of the arguments that the monies that we were approving had nothing to do with this, when in fact they have everything to do with this," said Rafael Espinoza, a Denver City Council Member.


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