Joint proposals by the City of Denver and the Colorado Department of Transportation seek to widen and lower an I-70 viaduct into a trench below the water table within Environmental Justice neighborhoods that occupy an unremediated Superfund Site in the most toxic zip code in the U.S.; as well as digging a 2-1/2 mile stormwater drainage system for 100-year flood protection of the project just south and parallel to I-70, named the “Platte to Park Hill.”
The decision to lower I-70 viaduct into a trench instead of diverting traffic and widening two existing highways to the north (I-270 & I-76) in predominantly industrial areas, seems to be driven by ambitions of the City and State for development of land north of I-70, extending from downtown to Denver International Airport. The appointment of an Olympic Exploratory Committee in 2011signaled ambitions to host a future Winter Olympics, creating Olympic venues within the converted National Western Stockshow complex adjacent to the I-70 viaduct.
The City and CDOT long denied the connection between the two projects, which have been largely planned below the radar. Many neighbors did not learn of the projects until 2015 or 2016, when Mayor Hancock finally acknowledged to some neighbors at a community meeting that the two projects are linked.
Due to the short-circuiting of environmental studies and protections, four lawsuits have been filed on behalf of residents. A pending lawsuit by the Sierra Club charges the Environmental Protection Agency with lowering air quality standards, thus permitting higher levels of pollution. A second lawsuit is based on the misappropriation of City Park Golf Course toward creation of a stormwater detention/drainage system, complete with the proposed removal of over 200 trees.Two additional lawsuits were filed on July 10, 2017, one charging the Federal Highway Administration with violating the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by failing in its oversight of the Environmental Impact Statement which bypasses the full scope of the projects. A fourth lawsuit charges violation of the Clean Air Act.
Three videos examine various aspects of the projects. Included are links to the videos on Denver Open Media, and, following that, on YouTube.
1) In the first 15-minute video, civil engineer Adrian Brown describes the potential hazards of widening and lowering the I-70 viaduct within a Superfund Site and quadrupling the stormwater drainage through the vulnerable Globeville Landing Outfall. The video at Globeville Landing Park was made two months before the park was leveled as excavation was begun by the City in January 2017: Perfect Storm: Denver’s “Platte-to-Park Hill” Storm Drainage
2) Neighbors describe short-cuts regarding the I-70 and Platte-to-Park Hill projects and the failure to provide EPA-required Community Outreach Plans: “Corridor of Opportunity”/Superfund Dig: Neighbors Last to Know
3) Neighbors testify before Denver City Council regarding hazards of the projects: SuperFund Dig: Is Denver the next Flint, Michigan?
YouTube versions of the same above videos: