Nearly four years ago, former Director of Denver’s Planning Office, Peter Park was teaching a design studio class at the University of Colorado at Denver. In the wake of Denver Mayor Michael Hancock’s idea to expand the I-70 highway, Park asked his students to envision some alternatives to simple expansion. Thus, the veteran city planner who had ushered in a wildly successful Milwaukee highway rerouting project that helped to revitalize their downtown, helped to spur a movement to think differently about highway expansion plans.
UCD design and architecture students formed teams, produced drawings and created videos that can be seen on their Facebook page, Reimagine I-70. Years later, many residents have jumped on board the idea of rerouting the highway instead of widening. With the recent tax approval for highway-adjacent Stock Show improvements, the City’s master plan is more likely to be carried out, leaving less room for any alternatives to the anticipated highway widening.
In addition, funding for the project was approved this week by the Federal Highway Administration in collaboration with the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT).
Nevertheless, Co-Founder & Executive Director of Project V.O.Y.C.E. (Voices of Youth Changing Education) and community activist, Candi C De Baca is resolute in her opposition to the construction project. She is hopeful about the outcome of a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency for failure to protect her Elyria/Swansea neighborhood, which would halt construction.
C de Baca has started a petition on Change.org directed toward Denver Mayor Michael Hancock in opposition to the project. Thus far nearly 300 have signed the petition citing problems with the highway expansion including widening I-70 to 22 lanes through neighborhoods, destroying City Park Golf Course to build a drainage system, subjecting neighbors to flooding and more air pollution and using 80 percent of Denver’s storm-water budget.
C de Baca has been featured on live television opposite CDOT saying she is concerned that, “For the next 30 years, over 50 percent of our bridge enterprise fund is going to two miles of highway to triple the size of it.” As for how she and other residents feel about the project, she says that it probably feels like when the highway was first built, “We are being forgotten, silenced, and our civil rights don’t matter.” C de Baca is also featured in a video about Globeville Landing, a park with drainage and flooding mitigation properties which will be further impacted by the highway project as currently planned. “All the water flowing here will be contaminated… This is a travesty… [We need to] stand up against projects that will harm generations to come.”
Two others who have voiced concern about the highway expansion are Denver City Councilman Rafael Espinoza and former Denver Auditor Dennis Gallagher who co-hosted a community town meeting this week in Northwest Denver currently represented by Espinoza and formerly represented by Gallagher as a Denver Councilman and State Representative. Their online invitation states, “The I-70 expansion has implications for the entire state of Colorado, including those in District 1 and the metro area. Not only are the people living within a couple miles of I-70 impacted, I-70 commuters, Denver storm sewer ratepayers, Colorado taxpayers and anyone who cares about environmental and social justice issues are also impacted.” The duo urges citizens to find further information on the “Ditch the Ditch” Facebook page.
The highway expansion includes covering the portion in northwest Denver near Swansea Elementary School to ameliorate some environmental impact and add four acres of needed green space to the neighborhood. Fifty-six homes and more than a dozen businesses would be demolished to make more room for the highway. Construction on the 10-mile highway stretch between Colorado Blvd. and Brighton Blvd. is anticipated to begin in 2018 and expected to take at least five years. Project cost exceeds $1.2 billion.