DENVER – Federal transportation officials have given their approval to an ambitious plan to rebuild part of the I-70 freeway in Denver and cover it with a park.
The $1.2 billion Central 70 Project is the result of years of research, discussions and public outreach seeking solutions for the aging 10-mile section of highway between I-25 and Chambers Road. State officials have said that section of roadway needs to be replaced within the next 10 years.
The project aims to relieve traffic congestion in the area while also connecting neighborhoods on either side of I-70 that have essentially been cut off from each other since the freeway was built in the mid-60s.
Plans for the project include adding a new express lane in each direction, demolishing the raised portion of the freeway, lowering it to below street level between Brighton and Colorado boulevards and covering the freeway with a four-acre park.
The park, which is being designed with the input from neighbors, will feature a sports field, play areas and spaces for concerts and farmers’ markets.
The project also includes money for nearby neighborhoods, with plans to remodel parts of Swansea Elementary School and homes nearest to the freeway in Swansea and Elyria. An additional $2 million is earmarked for affordable housing in the area.
An infrastructure project of this size and scope doesn’t come without some growing pains. Transportation officials said the Central 70 project will require displacing people from 56 residential properties and 17 businesses. Those people will receive relocation assistance and other help under the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Uniform Act.
The Central 70 project also includes a focus on providing work for local residents. Transportation officials aim to require filling 20 percent of construction jobs on the project with people who live in surrounding neighborhoods.
Design work on the freeway rebuild is expected to be completed this summer, with construction to begin sometime in 2018. The project is expected to take four to five years to complete.