Denver’s Largest Neighborhood Organization Demands Hickenlooper, Hancock End Plan to Widen I-70

Reps from CDOT and the city were invited to the forum but did not attend.

CDOT wants more asphalt for cars and trucks. Neighbors do not. Image: CDOT
CDOT wants more asphalt for cars and trucks. Neighbors do not. Image: CDOT

A group representing most of the city’s registered neighborhood organizations voted Saturday to demand a halt to the Colorado Department of Transportation’s planned expansion of I-70 through north Denver.

The Inter-Neighborhood Cooperation called for Governor John Hickenlooper and Mayor Michael Hancock to halt the widening, which will generate more traffic and pollution, “until all health impacts have been eliminated.” INC delegates from neighborhoods across the city voted 22 to 2 in favor of the motion, with four abstentions.

The historically disadvantaged, majority Latino neighborhoods of Globeville, Elyria, and Swansea stand to bear the brunt of the project — which faces legal challenges on four separate fronts from grassroots advocates. Aside from generating more traffic and pollution in the country’s most polluted ZIP code, CDOT’s plan will displace 56 homes and 18 businesses while digging up a federally designated Superfund site.

“Kids in those neighborhoods already have a 40 percent greater rate of hospitalizations from asthma — not from kids in Colorado in general, from kids in other Denver neighborhoods… It’s the highway,” said Andrea Gelfuso, an attorney working on the lawsuit asserting violations of the Clean Air Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and the Federal Aid Highway Act.

Residents speak at Saturday's INC forum. Photo: David Sachs
Residents speak at Saturday’s INC forum. Photo: David Sachs

The INC vote followed a forum in which civil and structural engineers joined Gelfuso to explain the disastrous effects of widening a highway through an urban center and update the public on grassroots resistance efforts.

Two empty chairs sat on the stage reserved for reps from CDOT and the city.

INC invited reps from Hickenlooper’s road agency and the Hancock administration, but neither showed. CDOT wouldn’t dispatch its communications team to the forum because the topic was “hedging too closely to the litigation,” INC President JJ Niemann told Streetsblog in an interview after the forum. Hancock’s chief of staff offered to send a rep with a 25-minute presentation, Niemmann said, but that did not fit INC’s open-dialogue format.

While CDOT did not participate in Saturday’s conversation, the agency tried fear-mongering to push its agenda online. In a Sunday Facebook post, CDOT cited the hurricanes in Florida and Texas to justify widening a highway for “civil defense and emergency evacuation” purposes.

In the post, CDOT called opponents of I-70 — which now officially includes Denver’s largest neighborhood organization — a “small vocal group.”

Denver’s neighborhood organizations are historically influential. For instance, a small group of organized homeowners donning the official neighborhood organization tag successfully lobbied the City Council earlier this year to require developers to build more parking — even if it means fewer homes and higher home prices.

Will city and state elected officials listen to Denverites, or engage in selective hearing?

  • deadindenver

    Sadly, the neighborhood thinks the city of Denver is a democracy when in reality it’s a oligarchy controlled by the CDOT and developers represented by Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, LLP,

  • TakeFive

    Never heard of Denver INC? Is INC also demanding that the “historically disadvantaged, majority Latino neighborhoods of Globeville, Elyria, and Swansea” be legally protected from Gentrification? Ofc not, they can’t do that. Neither do they or Denver have any ability to block a state/CDOT project other than throwing pointless lawsuits against the wall. Interesting that there was no interest in hearing the city’s POV.

    What would get the attention of placeholders and movers/shakers that have been pushing for an I-70 replacement for over a decade is to come up with an initiative for metro voters to approve the extra $2 billion in funding needed for a reroute. Get voter approval for that and it will get a whole lot of attention. CDOT should even have the funds to split the costs with Denver to tear down the existing viaduct and haul it away. While you’re at it you might want to ask Denver voters for the necessary $1 billion to build the Boulevard of Dreams. Approval for that would put the cherry on top; it would be Mission Accomplished.

    • MT

      Where did anybody ask to be legally protected from Gentrification?
      They want to be protected from pollution.

      You don’t think the residents of Denver should have any say in what CDOT builds through their neighborhoods? They don’t have any ability to block CDOT, so they should just shut up and suck exhaust?

      How about asking voters for 2 billion dollars to widen a couple miles of highway? Think that would pass? Everyone’s in favor of “relieving congestion” but no one is willing to pay for it. It’s also a lie.

      You can put that “extra 2 billion” number right back where you pulled it from too. There has not ever been real study done with an accurate cost estimate. I’m sure you’re also assuming all kinds of widening on the 270/76 reroute. That is not necessary either.

      What is necessary is starting to transform our transportation options to ones that are cleaner, more efficient, cheaper, less destructive to the structure of the city, and less of a financial disaster. This project is the opposite.

      • TakeFive

        You don’t think the residents of Denver should have any say in what CDOT builds through their neighborhoods?

        Yes, yes I do. In fact I think voter approval for all these fanciful ideas and their costs should be a requirement. What’s the holdup?

        Cleaner is on its way with electric and hybrid cars and trucks. Even China: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-09-10/china-s-fossil-fuel-deadline-shifts-focus-to-electric-car-race-j7fktx9z

        China Fossil Fuel Deadline Shifts Focus to Electric Car Race

        • MT

          The ditch is a pretty fanciful idea, and would never be approved by a vote. The people that drive that route are not willing to pay what it costs, and no one else is going to want to pay for it either.

          “Cleaner” is only one of the many problems with a car and freeway based transportation system. Electric will be cleaner that gas and diesel, but depending on how the electricity is generated, might not really be that clean. Still doesn’t stop the particulate pollution that comes from tires grinding on roads and brake pads. Still doesn’t solve the problems with safety. Still uses a huge amount of energy per person transported. Still takes up vast amounts of space for giant roads, freeways, parking lots. Still bulldozes the very city it’s supposed to serve in order to serve the needs of cars. Still builds a transportation system that costs more to maintain than it can ever generate in economic production. So yeah, maybe slightly cleaner is coming, eventually. Not anywhere good enough.

  • beckyrep

    A small neighborhood group along the 6th Avenue corridor in Denver made a big noise in the early 60s. (This was the original proposed route of I-70: 6th / 7th / 8th Avenue.) They were people of fair skin with considerable financial resources and political influence, who recognized that a major highway is not a neighborhood amenity. Not fitting this same profile, the politically powerless, brown-skinned, lower-income people of north Denver represented an easy ‘mark’ for highway planners. Now CDOT is doubling down on this atrocious ‘original sin’ I-70 siting, with the ridiculous Central 70 project, which is universally panned among those with any understanding of urban vitality. John Norquist, former mayor of Milwaukee (where a dysfunctional highway was torn out & replaced with human-scale infrastructure that actually serves the city) was president of Congress for the New Urbanism when he called Denver’s Central 70 “breathtakingly stupid.” And the project appears on USPIRG’s list of the 12 worst highway boondoggles in the nation. Central 70 is particularly appalling considering that a far less costly alternative exists: develop the I-270/76 beltway just to the north. Duh. This alternative, affecting 15X fewer humans, was quickly dismissed by Gov Hickenlooper and CDOT, without proper analysis as required by NEPA, I suppose to appease private partners who just love Central 70 for its ongoing toll revenue for private investors. I don’t think many people in Colorado understand that Central 70 alone hoovers HALF the Bridge Enterprise Fund for the next 30+ years. The construction costs of Central 70 are just the beginning. Watch as Superfund disturbance, trenching below the water table, and trying to reverse mother nature’s natural water flow patterns bite us in our collective taxpayer a**. These ‘vocal’ neighbors of I-70 have been trying to warm the rest of Colorado about this oncoming trainwreck for years. Now come the lawsuits. Here’s hoping our judges are a lot smarter, wiser, ethical & moral, and law abiding than the infrastructure “leaders” we have in Colorado.

    • TakeFive

      Central 70 alone hoovers HALF the Bridge Enterprise Fund for the next 30+ years.

      lol… Without getting too personal where did you pull the “30+ years” from? By now I’m used the teeny tiny oversight that a reroute would cost an additional $2.5 billion (and that assumes FHWA grants for the Boulevard of Dreams) but that 30+ years is a whole new revelation. BTW, your vacuum cleaner analogy is… interesting.

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