One Woman’s Story of Being Displaced by Colorado DOT’s I-70 Widening

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Holliday Aguilar pauses while telling her story at Mile High Connects’ call to action Wednesday. Photo: David Sachs

Denver neighborhoods are changing for lots of reasons, but one of the starkest is Colorado DOT’s I-70 expansion, which will cut a wide gash across north Denver.

CDOT and Governor Hickenlooper point to the shiny park and new side streets attached to the project, even though those changes are table scraps in comparison to the 10-lane highway trench. Hickenlooper even said the sunken highway will “reconnect communities.”

He should tell that to Holliday Aguilar.

The I-70 project is forcing Aguilar and her family to move away from Swansea. She doesn’t know where to go — she can no longer afford Denver proper — and says her story reflects those of others from her neighborhood. Here’s how she explained it, often near tears, at Mile High Connects’ recent forum on housing affordability. She spoke through a Spanish translator.

I want to tell you a little bit about my story. I live close to I-70. There’s always a lot of noise, all the time. The house where I live is constantly moving or shaking a little bit. But I feel okay there.

Now it turns out that I have to leave my home because they’re going to tear it down and expand I-70. I don’t know how much time I have left there, but I’m guessing about a few months. They said they would help me, but I cannot find a home. We searched and searched, but there are no homes for rent, and if you do find something, it’s very expensive. They said that maybe I’d have the opportunity of buying a house, but when we go see them they are already under contract.

I don’t want to leave there. My daughter goes to school there. I get together with the neighbors at neighborhood meetings. A lot of people there are being displaced. They can’t stay there. They go to other places, like Commerce City, like Thornton. There are kids that don’t show up to school anymore for the same reason.

It’s very difficult. There are a lot of hard things coming to that neighborhood. More than anything, when we’re looking at the construction of I-70, this is a five-year process. There’s gonna be a lot of contamination, a lot of noise. And it’s gonna look nice, but the the people that have lived there, like me, who has lived there for 15 years, I think that maybe people like me will not be able to see those changes, because we’ll have to move somewhere else. And I just don’t think that’s fair.

It’s not easy to live in those neighborhoods, but that’s our neighborhood, that’s where our kids go to school, that’s where our daughters take the bus to get to work. We don’t have a car, so we’re always walking or riding the bus. So many people will be displaced from there. People are going other places. Schools have very few students and they say that next year, they’ll probably have fewer children because of what’s happening in their neighborhoods.

So much for reconnecting communities.