Auditor, residents opposed to CDOT's plans for I-70 through Denver's Swansea neighborhood

DENVER - Denver's historic Swansea neighborhood may be in line for significant changes, but the plans have sparked vocal opposition from Denver's auditor and some residents.

"We are concerned," said Gonzalo Blanco, "I was raised down the street."

Less than a week ago Blanco opened his cell phone business beside the 50-year-old viaduct bridge. From that location he can hear the sounds he grew up with, cars and trucks passing by on Interstate 70.  

But Colorado's Department of Transportation wants to tear down the bridge and expand the highway underground to ten lanes, with two additional toll-lanes in each direction between Brighton and Colorado Boulevard.

"Through the Swansea, Elyria and GlobeVille, actually take the road way underneath through there and actually put a lid, a cap over it that would turn into a park as way of pulling the community back together," said CDOT Spokeswoman Amy Ford.

The proposal calls for some homes and properties to be acquired to make way for the construction.

But to Blanco, the plan means uncertainty about both the future of his neighborhood and his business.

"If they take this from us it's going to really hurt our pocket because of all the money that we put in this already," he said.

"I don't want to look back in a few years and see these neighborhoods further dissipated," said Denver Auditor Dennis Gallagher.

Although Gallagher has no direct role in the project, he is speaking out in opposition to the plan.

"What kind of a city are we if we can't protect the toughest of our neighborhoods, the neighborhoods that have suffered the most because of this interstate," he said.

"I've got babies to raise, I've got six kids, it's gonna hurt us, it's gonna hurt a lot of us," Blanco said.

Gallagher supports taking the highway underground, but says he is concerned about the scope of the project.

"I just think 10 lanes through those neighborhoods is inappropriate and plus as auditor it's wasteful, it's expensive," he said.

The City Auditor was so concerned that he traveled to Seattle on his own dime to tour a similar project.

"What I found out in Seattle is that the City of Seattle actually fought their Department of Transportation," he said.

Ford, on behalf of CDOT, says the bridge needs to be replaced and that ten lanes will be necessary for the future.

"We recognize that a lot of people are interested in this project as a whole and one of things we're really looking at is how do you not just plan for today, but also how do you plan for the future," Ford said.

Denver's City Council and Mayor also support the proposal, but Gallagher says he will keep fighting to reduce the number of lanes until the plan is finalized.

"I may lose the battle, but I'm gonna try my best," he said.

And Blanco is just hopeful for an outcome that will leave his new business intact.

"If they do tear us down we're hoping that maybe they'll build us up somewhere else, maybe keeping our fingers crossed," he said.

CDOT says public discussion on how to fund the $1.8 billion project will begin later this summer. A public-private partnership is being considered, similar to the project along US 36.

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