WHEAT RIDGE, Colo. (KDVR) — Wheat Ridge Police estimate about six people had been living inside a bridge that goes over Interstate 70 in Jefferson County.
“It’s pretty unbelievable. I don’t think most of our officers, including our command staff, who’s been here over 30 years, had ever seen anything like that,” Wheat Ridge Police public information officer Joanna Small said.
Last month, WRPD said one of its community officers spotted a person crawling into an access tunnel for the Colorado 58 flyover near 44th Avenue and Youngfield Street. According to WRPD, the bridge has interior compartments the Colorado Department of Transportation uses to access parts of the roadway for repairs and inspection.
“And what they discovered was section after section of trash, garbage, items. People using this as kind of like a makeshift living environment,” Small said.
Body camera video showed tunnel conditions
Body camera video shows hoarder-like conditions with boxes, bins and bags piled up against the walls. One chamber was used as bathroom facilities, another for trash and a separate one for burning.
The rest were constructed into “rooms” with tents and beds, shelving units to hold pantry items and closet rods with dozens of clothing items and jackets. Police also found high-value items like bicycles, electronics and tools.
“We were worried it was kind of like a safe haven for stolen items. It turned out we didn’t have any items that needed to be booked into evidence. Primarily what came out was just loads and loads of trash,” Small said.
CDOT hired a contract crew to clean out the bridge. According to WRPD, it took four days to complete the work. Four dumpsters hauled away 120 cubic yards of trash from the encampment.
It is unknown how long they may have been there.
“In general, we monitor our infrastructure for encampments and we also may be alerted by local agencies or residents of locations,” CDOT spokesperson Tamara Rollison said by email.
According to CDOT, the agency removes two to three homeless camps from its properties each week. It costs $2-$3 million each year for trash removal and cleaning up encampments.
Each bridge is federally mandated to be inspected at least once every two years. CDOT said it inspects each bridge in Colorado on a scheduled basis, but could not provide information about when the Colorado 58 flyover at I-70 was last checked.
Police say they have yet to confront any of the suspected inhabitants.
“That’s dangerous for them, it’s dangerous for the city, it’s dangerous for drivers. We don’t want you under a bridge, not like that,” Small said.