DENVER – The Colorado Department of Transportation is moving ahead with its billion-dollar plan to expand Interstate 70, even though opponents say it will push out low-income households and worsen local air quality. Now, a judge has to decide if the lawsuit claiming the project could destroy a popular golf course should go to court.
"The backbone of Colorado really from Chambers Road to Brighton Boulevard. We are trying to adjust the mobility and the infrastructure along that entire stretch, but the viaduct is a big part of it. What we are doing for the community is taking that mammoth structure away, lowering the highway, much like I-25 and the Washington park area, then placing a four-acre park on top to help bring the neighborhood back together," said CDOT spokesperson Rebecca White.
It's part of a ten-mile highway project from the National Western Complex east to Chambers Road in Aurora. Part of the design includes a park over the interstate, which will expand to ten lanes, getting rid of the old viaduct.
Tony Pigford is part of the group “Ditch the Ditch.”
"It's not going to reconnect the communities. Right now, you can walk under I-70 basically anywhere. If this project moves forward and they put the park there, people will have to walk quite a distance east and west to cross," said Pigford.
Several lawsuits, arguing environmental impacts and civil rights violations, have been filed against the project.
"Disproportionately affecting low-income communities of color again. Arguably, this would be another case of environmental racism. That highway shouldn't have been put there in the beginning," said Pigford.
Opponents say the I-70 project also indirectly ruins the City Park Golf Course, which will be used for storm water drainage that would protect part of the lowered highway. The golf course project, part of a larger storm water project, would have to be finished before construction begins.
"It will be closed for two years. Environmentally, it will be pretty sad. They will cut down 200 trees," said Pigford.
Documents filed as part of the lawsuit lists the destruction of a bird habitat, despite the
“course’s Audubon Sanctuary certification.”
The Federal Highway Administration found that the I-70 project would actually reduce pollution and alleviate congestion; something CDOT says is much needed.
"This highway was built in the 1960’s for the population of Colorado in the 1980’s. Here we are in 2017 with 40 percent population growth on the horizon,” said White.
The “Ditch the Ditch” group would rather see that stretch of I-70 replaced with a Boulevard.
"I think every Coloradan should be interested in this project and why we shouldn't be spending so much money on such a short stretch of road and then probably end up with congestion anyway," said Pigford.