- Activists, a developer and other members of the Denver community have filed a lawsuit against the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) in an effort to prevent the $1.2 billion expansion of Interstate 70 through the city's northeast area, according to The Denver Post.
- The plaintiffs allege that the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) wanted to speed up construction, so it did not include in its environmental review the impact of a separate drainage system upon which the project will rely. The lawsuit also claims that the project will disturb a Superfund site that contains toxic soil, pollute the South Platte River with runoff and negatively affect low-income and minority communities.
- The city of Denver and the CDOT maintain that the environmental review for the project, which has been in the works for 14 years, is comprehensive and in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act. The FHWA is named as the defendant in the suit because it granted federal approval for the project back in January.
The expansion, which is the target of other lawsuits trying to stop construction, would include the demolition and replacement of a 53-year-old, 2-mile viaduct with an underground freeway. The 4-acre area above the new roadway will feature a park. The CDOT has said previously that the park will reconnect communities that were split when the interstate was originally built between them. In total, the DOT would replace 10 miles of I-70.
The city has seen particularly strong pushback from the community because the project will require the demolition of 56 homes and 17 businesses. Some have labeled it the attempted gentrification of the largely Hispanic area. City officials, however, have argued that the project will be beneficial to the community because it is expected to create 5,000 new jobs, 20% of which will be set aside for locals. The contractor, which has yet to be selected, will also provide job training.
After the FHWA endorsement, the CDOT set a spring 2018 construction start date and said it would now be able to further the bid process, which involves four possible project teams. The winner will perform the expansion as a public-private partnership (P3) and will design, build, finance, operate and maintain the highway once complete.