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8811 East Hampden Ave.,
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Denver, CO 80231

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Colorado Commercial Expansion

There is always pro’s and con’s to expansion and growth in any economy and in any area of the country so Colorado and the I 70 interstate project is no different. However, it looks as if the project is a go ahead after many years of opposite issues being presented for both sides, and here’s a little news about the results.

Preliminary work on Central 70 is already under way, the team is in the final design stage, and there's a lot of activity to get ready for construction. We're doing some survey work and some demolition, like with the Colonial Motel, whose sign stuck up above the viaduct. That's been the most visible thing so far. But a lot of other things have been largely unnoticeable."

If things progress as CDOT expects, you'll be noticing a lot more over the next few months.

A federal judge earlier this year handed a major setback to opponents of the $1.2 billion expansion of Interstate 70 through northeast Denver, ruling that the project can proceed while they argue over its health risks for nearby residents.

The Sierra Club, joined by neighborhood and community groups, was in court last week presenting new analytical work by outside experts to buttress its case. But while the court has not ruled on two motions related to that evidence, Tuesday’s separate order rejects a larger motion to halt the project — and asserts that the environmental group has not demonstrated it is likely to succeed in its challenge.

U.S. District Court Judge William Martinez found that a 14-year environmental impact review by the Federal Highway Administration and the Colorado Department of Transportation relied on the correct federal air-quality standards. Those were used to find that the expanded freeway, as proposed, would not exceed safe emission levels in coming decades.

The Sierra Club has argued that those standards were insufficient to protect neighbors’ health in Elyria-Swansea and Globeville, raising the risk for asthma and cardiovascular disease.

But Martinez wrote in his 22-page order that the opponents failed to propose a consistent standard that could be used to determine when more health-impact investigation is warranted for a project when it already meets established federal standards.

Although the Sierra Club’s case still can proceed to full arguments, the ruling has removed the last potential legal roadblock for construction to begin on the I-70 project.

“The court’s decision, along with the recent dismissal of a second lawsuit, confirms CDOT’s long-standing position that the diligence and community-centered focus that led to the Central 70 Project would stand up to the toughest legal scrutiny,” deputy project director Rebecca White said in a statement Tuesday. “While this is not the final step in the legal process, it is an important validation of the work we have done and will continue to do as we move this important project forward.”

Although "Ditch the Ditch" protesters haven't given up on stopping the sprawling and controversial Central 70 project, the Colorado Department of Transportation is moving full steam ahead, with a goal of getting under way in earnest this summer. To help prepare metro-area drivers in general, and especially commuters who travel along Interstate 70 east of I-25 on a daily basis, for what CDOT insists will be coming soon, we reached out to Rebecca White, Central 70's communications director, who offers a preview of a process that's expected to take well into the next decade to complete.

The Central 70 plan encompasses an area "that's essentially from where I-70 and I-25 meet — the mousetrap — to Chambers Road," she continues. "And the most complex part of the project is between Brighton Boulevard and Colorado Boulevard. That's where the existing viaduct is today, and it's where the road will be lowered about thirty feet belowground. A four-acre cover will be built over a portion of that. It's about 1,000 feet in length from end to end."

This change would seem to suggest 24/7 lane closures, but White stresses that "it's not going to be that impactful. One of the major restrictions we put on the contractor with this project is that because Interstate 70 is an economic backbone for the state, they can't close any lanes during daylight hours. Up until 7 p.m., they have to keep three lanes running in either direction. At night, they can drop a lane, but they have only a set number of weekend and overnight full closures. Over the four years, we're only allowing them to do full closures overnight when majority activities are happening."

"We don't have an exact start date, but it's looking like June or July-ish," White says, adding, "It's a ten-mile project, and it will be phased in over four years."

The ruling was on a motion for a stay on the I-70 project, which is what courts call a preliminary injunction request in an agency-review action. The Sierra Club’s lawsuit, filed last summer, challenged the FHWA’s approval of the project in early 2017.

Attorney Bob Yuhnke said the group likely would ask Martinez to reconsider, based on arguments that he said weren’t addressed in the ruling. And he said the pending rulings on the outside experts’ analysis could be crucial, as well.

Some don’t think this is progress and of course it is, however how it is handled only time will tell now.