February 7, 2023
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Governor Jared Polis (D) and the Colorado Department of Transportation recently celebrated the completion of a four-acre “highway cover” community park located over a newly lowered section of I-70; part of the state’s $1.2 billion Central 70 Project.

[Above photo by the Colorado DOT]

The Central 70 Project encompasses an area that is home to 1,200 businesses, provides the regional connection to Denver International Airport, and carries upwards of 200,000 vehicles each day.

Photo by the Colorado DOT

Since its August 2018 groundbreaking, the Central 70 Project has reconstructed 10-miles of I-70, added one new Express Lane in each direction, removed an aging 57-year-old viaduct, lowered the interstate, and built the aforementioned four-acre park for the surrounding community.

“We are making Colorado roads safer, reducing traffic, and making sure that Coloradans and visitors can get where they are going quickly and easily, including to visit the many thriving businesses along this stretch of road,” noted Gov. Polis in a statement.

“The Federal Highway Administration congratulates our partners in Colorado for this beautiful cover park,” noted Acting FHWA Administrator Stephanie Pollack.

“The project is a prime example of how transportation projects can reconnect communities rather than just going through them, bringing people-focused infrastructure improvements that will last for generations to come,” she said.

Photo by the Colorado DOT

Colorado DOT began planning a revamp of the Central 70 corridor in 2003 and completed its environmental study 15 years later after significant changes to both the project and stakeholder engagement processes resulting from neighborhood concerns about the environmental and health impacts of the project.

As a result, the agency made over $30 million worth of specific commitments to communities affected by the project, in addition to changing the design to one that lowers the highway and connects the neighborhood via both the cover park and a network of at-grade bridges with pedestrian access.

Those commitments included:

  • Constructing 38,700 linear square feet of Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant sidewalks making it possible to safely walk the full length of the Central 70 Project area;
  • Improving community connectivity by adding new traffic signals and lights, crosswalks and pedestrian crossing signals, and extending 46th North and South avenues;
  • Providing a $2 million grant to the local affordable housing collaborative to support affordable housing construction;
  • Providing $18.5 million worth of improvements to Swansea Elementary School that included two new early childhood education classrooms, a new playground, a new main entrance and parking lot and new heating and air conditioning;
  • Planting 100 trees and additional landscaping along 46th North Avenue and the new cover park;
  • Providing interior storm windows and air conditioning units, plus financial assistance for utility costs, to over 260 homes to help mitigate dust and noise during construction.
  • Ensuring job opportunities for residents through a 20-percent geographic-based hiring requirement from local communities while also requiring on-the-job training to provide opportunities for workers to advance to high-skill positions during the construction period.

“This project is an example of how hard conversations can be productive and help us be better neighbors,” said Colorado DOT Executive Director Shoshana Lew.

“The advocacy of community members throughout this project helped Colorado DOT learn to take community feedback seriously and develop state-of-the-art processes for mitigating the impacts of large projects,” she added. “We thank them for their input and hope they see its results in the finished product.”

editor@aashto.org

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