As many of you reading this blog know, I-70 is a main highway that runs through Colorado, and includes stretches of the road which are considered engineering marvels. The new Central 70 Highway Project is definitely up there with the best.
This week we had a conversation with two key members from the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) who oversee different aspects of the Central 70 Highway Project. We had the pleasure of speaking with Bob Hays, CDOT’s Central 70 Project Director and Stacia Sellers CDOT’s Central 70 Communications Manager.
Before we jump in let’s understand what exactly this project entailed with some background information.
Where is central 70?
- Central 70 includes the portion of I-70 between I-25 and Chambers Road.
How many cars travel this stretch on a given day?
- It is estimated to carry more than 200,000 vehicles per day.
What does the Central 70 Project include?
- The Central 70 Project will reconstruct a 10-mile stretch of I-70 between Brighton Boulevard and Chambers Road, add one new Express Lane in each direction, remove the aging 57-year-old viaduct, lower the interstate between Brighton and Colorado boulevards, and place a 4-acre park over a portion of the lowered interstate.
Luckily, this project will help to decrease traffic congestion in the area by widening the highway. Other improvements for the adjacent neighborhoods were performed during the physical reconstruction project as well. We’ll jump into these a little later.
As most drivers have experienced on their way to the airport, the Central 70 Project has been going on for years. How many years exactly? The project commenced with studying, ideating and planning for a solution to the 57 year old aging viaduct about 15 years ago. Although drivers only experience the physical construction going on and see it as a burden, the project itself included a lot of behind the scenes mitigation, community support and a ton of community improvements that Bob and Stacia shared with us.
Let’s get into the details…
During the Central 70 Project, the community was very involved in order to have a voice and help improve the neighborhoods in which these Denverites live in. Did you know the idea for the lowered section of this project started with a community petition? CDOT listened and headed the call.
Here’s a list of a few key community improvements that were implemented during the Central 70 Highway Project by CDOT with help from the City and County of Denver and organizations such as Energy Outreach Colorado and Northeast Transportation Connections.
- An estimated 260 homes adjacent to the I-70 viaduct between Brighton and Colorado boulevards received home improvements
- 755 storm windows were installed (helps with dust and noise from construction)
- New HVAC systems were installed
- Community training for the construction industry in order to hire a local workforce. Many being women, and minorities who did not have prior experience in the industry
- Out of the roughly 1000 workers who were hired for the project, more than 600+ are local workers
- Providing $100,000 to help increase access to fresh food to mitigate this food desert
- Providing free shuttles for residents to grocery stores and doctors appointments
- Free RTD passes for qualifying neighborhood residents
- Providing incentives for commuters to carpool if they are traveling to a destination within the same area, which helps get more cars off the road and has saved more than 1 million vehicle miles traveled
- Installing five air quality monitors in the communities near the construction site
- New scholarships opportunities for students at Swansea Elementary School
- STEM afterschool programs to increase interest for young students
- $19 million worth of improvements to Swansea Elementary School
- $2 million affordable housing grant to build new affordable housing complexes in the Globeville, Elyria-Swansea neighborhoods to help residents from being pushed out of the neighborhood by gentrification
As you can see, this level of community improvement is truly amazing and may very well set the bar as the new gold standard for taking a community approach for large infrastructure projects in Colorado and the United States.
Let's talk timeline...
All six lanes of I-70 traffic will be shifted temporarily into the new, future westbound lanes of the lowered section of I-70 by Monday, May 24. Crews will then work to safely demolish the old I-70 between Brighton and Colorado boulevards and build out the future eastbound lanes of I-70. Traffic will be in its final configuration within the next 18 months. The 4 acre park above the interstate will be finalized by 2023.
Lastly, during our conversion we asked Bob and Stacia what their favorite part of the project was... Let’s check out their answers below.
“Seeing the project come to fruition will be a rewarding experience. When a large project of this nature is initially planned many things such as delays and missing deadlines can occur. Even while Covid-19 hit we were still able to progress. I’m thankful for everyone involved and I’m excited to see the finished version of this project.” - Bob
“Working with the community, an excellent team, and helping the children in these surrounding neighborhoods was really an amazing experience for me. Many of these programs will stay in place for years to come. I’m thankful for the community's role in this project.” - Stacia
Thank you to Bob and Stacia for taking the time to talk to I-70 Things. We learned a lot about the behind the scenes and the importance of these large infrastructure projects for the Denver neighborhoods and Colorado drivers.
Have any questions? Feel free to ask your questions in the comments section below.
Thanks for reading!
This blog post's featured image is the 4 acre park rendering over the lowered section of I-70.
PS: We’re a small team. So if you’d like to be a guest blog writer and have an interesting topic or a wild I-70 story that you’d like to share please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also if you’re an expert in an applicable industry we’d love to interview you.