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DENVER — Controversy continues over the plan to tear down the Interstate 70 viaduct through central Denver and bury a stretch of the highway underground.

Members of several community groups joined the congregation to speak out against the $1.7 billion central 70 project to tear down the 50-year-old viaduct and sink two miles of the highway in its place.

“That they need to find a different way to impact this community than expanding the highway through an already volatile community,”  said Timothy Tyler,  pastor at Shorter AME Church.

“Coming together to say that urban highways are really a bad idea they’re basically preying on minority neighborhoods,” said Kyle Zeppelin, a plaintiff in federal lawsuit against project.

“We’ve got to tell the mayor and the city council that we’ve got to put people first and not business first.”

But the Colorado Department of Transportation said after 14 years of studying dozens of alternatives, the agency is investing $20 million in neighborhood improvements and affordable housing around the project.

“The irony here is so much of this project is rooted in the community. The reason it’s taken us 14 years to try to figure what to do with this viaduct is because of our concern with the community,” CDOT spokeswoman Rebecca White said.

CDOT is also required to hire 20 percent of the project’s workers from surrounding neighborhoods and is offering job training for completion in three to four years.

“This is definitely a project that is not your average let’s just build a highway. There’s a lot more to it,” White said.