DENVER — A meeting between residents and Colorado Department of Transportation officials over the $1.2 billion Interstate 70 expansion project turned heated on Thursday night.
Opponents of the project wore black face masks to raise concerns about air pollution in the area, and community leaders and residents brought their own microphone to the meeting at the Swansea Recreation Center.
The Federal Highway Administration approved the plan last month to reconstruct a 10-mile stretch of the interstate between Interstate 25 and Chambers Road that runs through central Denver.
The viaduct on the interstate is crumbling and engineers rate it the worst bridge in Colorado. When engineers built the 53-year-old viaduct, they didn’t envision the traffic flow that the stretch of interstate now sees on a daily basis.
Under the plan, CDOT will expand the interstate, add express lanes, and put it below grade.
The top of the lowered interstate will be capped by a four-acre park that will include a large sports field, an amphitheater and an area for a farmers market. CDOT will also contribute $2 million to affordable housing.
As part of the project, 56 homes and 17 businesses in Elyria-Swansea and surrounding areas will be torn down to accommodate for the larger interstate.
CDOT posted a video on its Facebook page promoting the project, including the reroute proposal in the north metro area that CDOT executive Shailen Bhatt said would be a logistical and financial nightmare.
CDOT hopes to start construction in 2018. The project is expected to last five years with the goal to wrap it up in 2022 or 2023.
Three lawsuits have been filed to fight the project.