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Latest Press on I-70 East Project


North Denver Tribune: Opposition Grows to CDOT’s I-70 Expansion Plan

Coloradoan: Sierra Club File Lawsuit to Contest I-70 Expansion

Washington Times: Sierra Club, Others File Lawsuit to Contest I-70 Expansion

CPR: EPA Sued Over CDOT’s Proposed I-70 Widening

Denver Business Journal: Denver’s I-70 Expansion Project Target of Sierra Club Lawsuit 

Denver Post: I-70 Expansion in North Denver Target of Lawsuit

Denver Streets Blog: North Denver Neighbors, Sierra Club File Suit to Squash I-70 Boondoggle

Westword: I-70 Expansion Plan Lawsuit Filed Against EPA by Neighbors & Sierra Club


I-70 Visualizations

The comment period for the proposed expansion of I-70 is now open and will end October 31st. It’s incredibly-important to 11 communities that are adjacent to I-70, ESPECIALLY Globeville, Elyria & Swansea. It’s also very important to all I-70 commuters and important to all CO taxpayers.

Our opportunity to cause change and protect these neighborhoods and the people we care about who are living in them is either now or not-in-the-next-50+-years due to a very long-term contract with a public–private partner for the proposed four toll lanes.

The just-released SEIS (Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement) is available here: http://www.i-70east.com/reports.html Some of it is interesting. Some is tough to read. Many people reading it have BIG concerns about what’s contained within it. You don’t need to read much to make well-informed comments – telling them NOT to proceed with their current plan and making it clear that you want them to study re-routing the freeway before making a final decision.

Want ideas of sample comments? Here is a list: http://unitenorthmetrodenver.com/comment-effectively/

Want to know how & where to make a comment [online, in-person, on the phone, via e-mail or snail-mail]: http://www.i-70east.com/comment-form.html

These visualizations have been created by both CDOT and opponents of the project in order to better illustrate the options for CDOT’s highway expansion project. Take a look:


I-70 currently, looking west. Colonial Motel and Swansea Elementary in the center. (Image created by CDOT).


A proposed widened, but still elevated, option [not CDOT’s preferred alternative]. Fewer houses and less of the Swansea Elementary playground is removed. (Image created by CDOT).


Here’s CDOT’s “cut & cover”, as proposed.
The freeway expands from its current 85 foot width to 274 feet in width, when counting the at-grade feeder lanes. That’s 3.2 times wider.
The cut is 8,200 feet long. The cover can’t exceed 900 feet (2 1/2 blocks). The cut will be 40 feet deep in some areas.
It’s a total of ten lanes of freeway, with four toll lanes, plus four additional feeder lanes that make-up for the loss of the Steele/Vasquez & York/Josephine exists.
The feeder lanes will be between 55 & 65 feet from the school building [CDOT’s figures in the SDEIS are inconsistent]. Note that the Swansea Elementary loses the existing playground on the south side and the end of the unventilated lid [its outlet for air-pollution] is very nearby. Many homes and businesses must be demolished.
CDOT is not proposing that CDOT does the landscaping on the lid. Instead, CDOT is looking to Denver Public Schools or City & County of Denver to landscape and maintain the lid. (Image created by CDOT).


here’s a rendering of the 46th Avenue Blvd, after a portion of the existing traffic is re-routed onto the current paths of I-270 & I-76.
The Colonial Motel and Swansea Elementary are in the center of the photo. No houses lost.
Significant new retail and development opportunities exist with approximately 80 acres, owned by the City, made available for new uses.
The halo-looking item is a bridge at the Platte River, just west of the Coliseum & National Western Stock Show Complex – a grand entrance into the NWSS Complex, the River, the RiNo District and the final leg into downtown coming from the airport.
What better way to say “welcome” to this wonderful part of Denver?

If you are interested in the I-70 re-route option and/or are against widening I-70 and would like more information, please send an email to contactus@unitenorthmetrodenver.com and ask to be placed on our email list. You can also find out more information on this subject as http://unitenorthmetrodenver.com/

I-70 Reroute: Myths and Realities

There are many misconceptions that surround CDOT’s impending reconstruction of the I-70 reroute. This post lists these misconceptions, and addresses them by telling the real story.

Myth: It is too late to study the possibility of removing I-70 from Denver and rerouting it along the I-270/I-76 corridor. The decision has already been made to do the below grade highway widening. The train has already left the station.

Reality: The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) has just published a Draft Supplemental EIS on the below grade option. The Record of Decision (the final decision) won’t be made until 2015 at the earliest and construction won’t begin until at least 2016. Until then other alternatives are still on the table.

Myth: A decision has to be made quickly because the I-70 viaduct is deteriorating and may be unsafe.

Reality: The Draft Supplemental EIS rates the Viaduct at a 62 on the scale of Colorado bridges. According to “Your CDOT Dollar” a bridges rated 62, “require preservation-focused maintenance or occasional corrective rehabilitation work.” In 2011 CDOT spent $24m on repairs to the viaduct which “Provided an estimated 10-15 yrs. of structure life.” That means that the viaduct is perfectly safe until at least 2021 and probably until 2026, and its life could be extended even longer at a very small cost.

Myth: A decision has to be made quickly because we have been studying this issue for 10 years and now it is just time to build.

Reality: Just as the decision to initially locate I-70 in Denver in the 1960s affected the City for the next half century, this decision will determine how the northern half of Denver will develop for the next half century. In fact, if a private sector partner is engaged to build the highway (a Public-Private-Partnership) a long-term contract will be signed to retain the right-of-way to allow that company to make a profit. For the sake of Globeville, Elyria, Swansea and the entire northern metropolitan region, it is more important to make the right decision than to make a hasty decision.

Myth: We have to expand the highway to 10 lanes to deal with highway congestion today.

Reality: According to CDOT the purpose of the new toll lanes is not primarily to relieve congestion. It is to provide a “reliable trip” for people in the toll lanes. They define a reliable trip as an average speed to 45 mph. In order to accomplish this, when highway traffic increases they will increase tolls, forcing more cars into the general purpose lanes, increasing congestion in those lanes to maintain a smooth ride for those who can afford the tolls. This transfers wealth from the general public who paid for the highway, and the people living along it who bear its negative effects, to rich people riding in the “lexis lanes”.

Myth: We have to expand the highway to 10 lanes to deal with increased highway traffic in the future.

Reality: Between 2005 and 2011 annual per person vehicles miles traveled declined 11.4% in Colorado. Because of an aging population, changing driving habits among young people, more people working from home, increased urbanization and greater use of public transportation people are driving less each year. Moreover, because of better technology the capacity of existing highways is increasing. A study at Columbia University estimates that within 75 years current highways can safely transport almost three times as many cars. Widening highways is thinking for the past century, not the next century. It wastes taxpayers’ dollars.

Myth: Studying rerouting I-70 along I-270/I-76 would require a full new Environmental Impact Statement and would delay the project by 5 to 10 years.

Reality: The I-270/I-76 reroute was one of the multiple alternatives proposed by CDOT in 2003. It was summarily dismissed, but I-270 was always considered part of the study corridor. In fact, CDOT held outreach meetings in Adams County as late as November of 2012 seeking to convince people there that placing the highway along I-270 would not be in their interest. As a result, examining the I-270/I-76 alternative would be no different than what CDOT did when it examined the below grade option after initially rejecting it as part of its 2008 EIS. It would only require a Supplemental EIS which experts in the field estimate would not take longer than 9 to 12 months, and which would not cost more than $1m.

Myth: The I-270/I-76 reroute was studied and rejected by CDOT in 2003, and was studied and rejected again in 2008.

Reality: The Colorado Department of Transportation has repeatedly been asked to produce any studies of the full reroute that have been done. They have consistently been unable or unwilling to do so.

Myth: The I-270/I-76 reroute was presented to the PACT of stakeholders and to members of the Globeville, Elyria, and Swansea communities at outreach meetings and was rejected by them.

Reality: The PACT was specifically prohibited from considering the full reroute. The only reroute that was submitted to the PACT and to community members would have begun east of I-25 and cut through the heart of Elyria to intersect I-270. It would have done irreparable harm to the community and was rightly rejected, but it was very different from the full reroute. In fact, according to Denver City Councilperson Paul Lopez, when community members throughout East Denver were surveyed by CDOT in 2003 their first preference was for I-70 to be removed.

Myth: The I-270/I-76 reroute was rejected by CDOT because a cost analysis was done and it was found to be too expensive. It would cost $4.35b.

Reality: a document provided by CDOT in response to inquiries states, “Cost estimates typically are not prepared for eliminated alternatives.” The $4.35b number is a “high level cost estimate” prepared in response to questions. It has been rejected as grossly elevated by several experts who place the realistic cost as between $500m and $1b, about one-half the cost of the below grade option. And, this figure does not include the savings from not having to reconstruct and widen I-270 after the I-70 below grade option is completed; something that CDOT has already promised Adams County.

Myth: The below grade option isn’t perfect, but it will improve conditions in Globeville, Elyria and Swansea over what currently exists.

Realty: A survey of 15 real estate brokers who work across north Denver estimates that if the below grade option is completed and the highway is widened, it will decrease property values in Globeville, Elyria and Swansea by an average of 6.85%. It will increase the isolation of those living north of the highway by tripling the north-south division to over 300 feet, by reducing the number of north-south cross streets from fourteen to six, and by erecting 8 to 14 foot sound barrier/safety walls in residential areas. In contrast, according to the realtors, rerouting the highway would increase property values by an average of 24%.

Myth: CDOT’s plan for the below grade option adequately mitigates the effect of the highway at Swansea Elementary School.

Reality: The Environmental Protection Agency’s School Siting Standards recommend that no school be located within a half mile of an Interstate highway. California outlaws new schools being constructed within 500 feet of a major highway. The only mitigation that CDOT has offered to this point is to move the playground to the other side of the school, install soundproof doors and windows, improve the internal ventilation and construct two new classrooms. This is wholly inadequate to protect the health of the children.

Myth: Rerouting the highway will result in deterioration of the neighborhood by replacing it with a busy surface level road similar to Colorado Boulevard or Santa Fe Boulevard.

Reality: Nobody is proposing simply removing the highway and installing a surface level boulevard. In each of the numerous cities that have successfully removed highways, the removal has been accompanied by planning to improve the traffic grid and to support the creation of alternative transportation modalities such as biking and mass transit. In every other city that has removed a highway it has resulted in less traffic congestion.

Myth: Rerouting I-70 would flood I-270 and I-76 with over 400,000 cars per day.

Reality: CDOT’s own projections for the reroute are for a maximum of 140,000 Average Daily Traffic on I-270 and 125,000 ADT on I-76. Estimates above that are simply scare tactics which double count the cars that would be on the rerouted highway and the surface boulevard, and which do not contemplate any planning to improve other routes.

Myth: Rerouting the highway is just another case of NIMBY. It would be detrimental to Adams County and Jefferson County.

Reality: According to numerous developers who have interests in Adams and Jefferson Counties, a state-of-the-art highway such as currently exists through Vail, Glenwood Canyon or T-Rex would substantially increase property values along I-270 and I-76 by changing the image of the southern part of those counties. It would promote the type of office and light industrial development that belongs along an interstate highway such as that which currently exists at the Tech Center and Interlocken.


Dallas’ Battle to Remove I-345

Dallas is currently dealing with an issue much like Denver’s I-70 expansion. An interstate that runs through their city, I-345, is scheduled to be repaired in the near future. However, a group of concerned citizens is pushing for the highway to be instead deconstructed. This would reconnect the city and open up land for development. However, the Texas Department of Transportation isn’t budging. Jason Heid of D Magazine has written this article, which explores the situation in Dallas. Although TxDOT is sticking to it’s decision, the local activists may find federal support for their campaign. This quote from the article explains the TIGER grants, which may pave the way for the removal of the highway:

Today brings word about new federal dollars for a project like this becoming available. In St. Paul, Minnesota, President Obama is going to launch a competition for $600 million in grants for transportation projects nationwide. It’s the sixth round of Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants, which so far have resulted in giving $3.5 billion to 270 projects. (UPDATE: The Transportation Department has announced the deadline for applying is April 28.)

Even better news for anti-I-345 advocates, the 2014 TIGER program seems ideal for their proposal, since the White House has stated that this round of funding will give priority to “projects that make it easier for Americans to get to jobs, school, and other opportunities, promote neighborhood revitalization and business expansion, andreconnectneighborhoods that are unnaturally divided by physical barriers such as highways and railroads.”

I added the emphasis to that quote. If they want a share of that money, Dallas leaders will need to decide fast whether this teardown is what they want to do.

As you can see, Dallas’ movement and others like it could find support in the form of federal dollars. Dallas leaders face the decision of allowing TxDOT to continue with it’s planned repairs, or push the organization to instead consider the removal of the highway. With all the good that could come from the removal of the highway, we hope that they will make the right decision.

3 Cities With Freeways Going Nowhere

In this great article, Linton Weeks explores the history of freeways cutting through cities, and explores the movements throughout our nation that are working to fix the damage that freeways have done to their communities. Weeks’ cites three examples, taken from Congress for the New Urbanism’s list of Top Ten Freeways without Futures for 2014. The Congress for the New Urbanism gives this definition of a “Freeway without Future”:

There are lots of upsides to tearing down highways, Tim Halbur of the CNU tells NPR, “not the least of which is a matter of social equity. In the era of freeway expansion, whole neighborhoods — usually full of lower-income people —were plowed through with elevated highways. These highways destroyed the social and economic connections that knitted the community together.”

Weeks’ article showcases local movements in New Orleans, Detroit, and San Fransisco. You can read more about the details of each city in the article, but they all are moving towards the same goal: The removal of a damaging freeway and the healing of the community around it. The article also speaks to the dangers of in-city freeways and what can be gained by removing them. In this quote from the article, we can see that there are many problems are addressed when a freeway is removed or rerouted:

There are lots of upsides to tearing down highways, Tim Halbur of the CNU tells NPR, “not the least of which is a matter of social equity. In the era of freeway expansion, whole neighborhoods — usually full of lower-income people —were plowed through with elevated highways. These highways destroyed the social and economic connections that knitted the community together.”

The most important point this article makes is that the problems with these freeways are being recognized, and that action is being taken to rectify issues. Additionally, they are making a real difference in their community. San Franciscans have already successfully resisted a web of highway expansions that would have cut through their neighborhoods. Now they are working to turn a portion of I-128 into a boulevard.

If we look at the planned eastward widening of I-70, we can see that we face the same issues. If I-70 is widened, it will cut into the neighborhood around it, further damaging Elyria-Swansea and Globeville. However, if the highway is rerouted, decade-old wounds can be healed. The damage done by freeways like I-70 is being realized and it is time to finally fix our mistakes.

Will CDOT’s expansion work during severe weather?

This image depicts a cross-section of CDOT’s planned highway expansion, which could lead to disastrous results as described below.

The March 1, 2014 instantaneous 103-vehicle wreckage and death in the I-25/T-Rex depression below Washington Street was shocking. The Denver Post described a situation that eventually will happen innumerable times along CDOT’s proposed I-70 1.75 mile “cut and kill trench.”

Here are more extremes:

    • Identical 330′ paving width basic layout 0.8 miles long at I-25.
    • Two rail lines modified into driving lanes creates the same subterranean profile I-70 is deeper with an 800′ underpass cover. I-25 gravity drains, but I-70 falls to one 40′ deep tunnel.
    • I-25 diagonals sunrays and I-70 perpendiculars, so its maximum 56′ tall snow shadow footprint modifies microclimates six months yearly
    • The I-70 Venturi Effect becomes severe, matching high velocity west winds with old Stapleton tunnel conditions, including required 5% gradients
    • Rush hour drivers face staccato direct/indirect instant light blindness under bridges and covers
    • Wind chills coupled with typical Denver 140 annual freeze/thaws exacerbate expansion and contraction impacts in a moat subject to powerful below surface water seepage pressures plus -25 to +105 degree temperatures.
    • Deicing barely mitigates lesser wintertime climate occurrences. Consequently, these elements continuously generate “death crashes” waiting to happen!

JMProsser 08/12/2014

Localized Vehicle Emissions Impacts

I just thought that I would pass this along to let you know about Councilwoman Debbie Ortega’s efforts on the I-70 issue. A note of thanks to her sure wouldn’t hurt. Second, thanks to Elizabeth Evans, Frances Frainaguirre and Ruben Espinosa, for their thoughtful letters to the editor in the Denver Post this morning. Thanks also to those of you who wrote but whose letters weren’t published. The fact that the Post held the letters for today, the biggest circulation day for the newspaper, indicates that they consider this an important issue. I would once again urge you to write letters to the Greater Park Hill News at newspaper@greaterparkhill.org and the North Denver Tribune at News@NorthDenvertribune.com

Debbie Ortega’s email and response is below. You can find the article Dr. Winer’s refers to here.

Again, thanks to everyone for your efforts.

Sent: Sunday, July 07, 2013 7:59 AM

Subject: Fw: Fwd: Roadside air monitoring study adjacent to highways & impact to residents/schools within 400 kl

—– Forwarded Message —–
From: Deborah Ortega
To: Mike Harris
Sent: Saturday, July 6, 2013 3:09 PM
Subject: Fwd: Roadside air monitoring study adjacent to highways & impact to residents/schools within 400 kl

Here is the response and attachment from professor Arthur Winer from UCLA on the roadside air quality study.


Deborah “Debbie” Ortega
Councilwoman At Large
492 City & County Building
1437 Bannock Street
Denver, CO 80202
720 337-7713

Begin forwarded message:

From: Arthur Winer
Date: July 5, 2013, 6:42:01 PM MDT
To: ‘Deborah Ortega’
Cc: ‘Mike Harris’
Subject: RE: Roadside air monitoring study adjacent to highways & impact to residents/schools within 400 kl

Dear Deborah Ortega:

Thank you for your interest in our research on the localized impacts of vehicle emissions from major roadways. I have attached an article written in an accessible form describing some of our concerns about near-roadway exposure. There is a growing body of peer-reviewed journal articles concerning the elevated pollutant levels downwind of major roadways and their exposure implications. I can send you references to some of these articles should you want them.

I am an exposure assessment scientist not an epidemiologist so I do not generally comment on health effects per se. I will say there is strong evidence for both morbidity and mortality associated with diesel exhaust particulate from heavy duty diesel trucks (HDDT).

You will note from this article that California passed a law a decade ago to ban new schools from being built within 500 feet of freeways. I strongly support this regulation based on research conducted by my group and other researchers.

You will also note our concern about environmental justice issues for disproportionate exposures of low income, high poverty residents along major highways or in communities impacted by HDDT goods movement.

I hope this information is helpful.

Best regards,

Arthur Winer, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus
UCLA Fielding School of Public Health

From: Deborah Ortega
Sent: Friday, July 05, 2013 3:05 PM
Cc: Mike Harris
Subject: Roadside air monitoring study adjacent to highways & impact to residents/schools within 400 kl

Hi Dr. Winer,
I am a Citywide Denver City Councilwoman and I was referred to you by former EPA air quality specialist David Gemmill, who I met on a flight to San Diego in June. He shared with me that you did a study on Roadside Air Monitoring adjacent to highways and the serious concern about the health impacts from the NO2. PM2.5 – particulate matter Pb – fine particulates and Ar – pm10 from combustion products. He stated this study showed 500 times background and has deadly affects to the lungs of people who live near highways and are exposed to these contaminants over time. How can I obtain a copy of your study?

Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) is in the middle of an EIS on the I-70 corridor, immediately north of Downtown Denver. They are not proposing to relocate a school which will be 70 ft from the highway once the width is doubled. They think putting a “lid” over the highway for a two block stretch near the school will be sufficient to address this impact. David Gemmill vehemently disagrees.

Additionally, when I served previously as the District Council person, I was involved in the Asarco lawsuit, which forced this lead smelter company to clean up heavy metals (lead, cadmium and arsenic); but this only affected residential properties.

This highway project will disturb and cause airborne heavy metal contaminants throughout the five year construction period, thus compromising the health of the children who attend Swansea Elementary School and the low income residents which abut the I-70 highway.

I am looking for evidence that will justify the need for CDOT to move the school to a different location and to do an air quality study prior to any construction and for them to monitor air quality during and after the construction of this project.

Any help you can lend in providing a copy of this study and any other helpful information will be greatly appreciated!

I have copied DU Law School Professor, Mike Harris who has been assisting the residents and is looking out for their interests.

Thank you so much for your attention to this request. Please feel free to call me if you have any questions. I can best be reached on my cell phone at 303 587-6620.

Deborah “Debbie” Ortega
Councilwoman At Large
492 City & County Building
1437 Bannock Street
Denver, CO 80202
720 337-7713

Children and Highways: An Untold Story published on Project Floodlight

A story focusing on the effects of highways on children and schools was recently published on Project Floodlight, an online platform to create and contribute to stories from your community. The story covers how children’s health and learning are effected by school proximity to highway pollution. This issue is especially relevant now, as the proposed highway widening would bring the highway pollutants even closer to schools such as Swansea Elementary, and many others along I-70.

The story, written by Jon Denzler, is in three parts. You can find the first two parts below:

Children and Highways: An Untold Story (1/3) on Floodlight
Children and Highways: An Untold Story (2/3) on Floodlight

I-70 Reroute Option Featured in Denver Post

An opinion piece was recently posted in in The Denver Post by Vince Carroll, presenting and covering the all different aspects of the the I-70 project debate. It can be viewed on the Denver Post website Here.

If you have the time and the inclination, in the wake of the story it probably would be helpful to write a letter to the editor in support of studying the reroute option. E-mailed letters go to openforum@DenverPost.com, they cannot exceed 150 words, the message must be in the text and not an attachment, and they must include your name and phone number.