Freeways here, freeways there, freeways everywhere part 2.

POITRA Visual photosimulation services (www.poitra.com) for ATKINS and CDOT. I-70 East Viaduct Relocation Photo Simulation. Visualization for Impact Study of Alternatives. Denver, CO, CDOT. I-70 East Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) Project.

In our last post (and our first post) we looked at a number of freeway proposals which Denver considered in the 1960s.  While the concept of new freeways has mostly fallen out of favor, we still have to deal with our existing infrastructure.  One of the biggest and oldest freeways in Denver is Interstate 70 through the East half of the city, and it is about to see some big changes.

Interstate 70 through East Denver is built on a Viaduct above 46th Avenue between Washington Street and Colorado Boulevard, and it is crumbling.  The traffic is also a nightmare, with backups occurring in both directions at all hours of the day.  When it was first constructed in the 1960s, the city tore up blocks of housing in the Globeville, Elyria, and Swansea neighborhoods.  Today the viaduct acts as a barrier between North Denver and the rest of the city.  A drastic plan has been put in place to tear down the viaduct and replace most of it with a sunken freeway, and the piece de resistance of the entire project is a three block stretch of the freeway will pass under a park in front of Swansea Elementary School.  The park is hoped to act as a connector to reunite the Northern neighborhoods with the rest of the city.  By the year 2023, the trip out to the airport could look something like this:

The current viaduct is structurally deficient and has to be torn down.  The proposal above will allow for an eventual five lanes in each direction to help handle the 200,000 plus cars which currently traverse the highway every day. While this would be much better than what is there now, it would more than double the width of the freeway in many parts.  A number of local residents and activist groups are advocating for removing I-70 through East Denver altogether.  A coalition known as Ditch the Ditch is calling for Denver to reroute I-70 up through Commerce City. In their plan, I-270 would cease to exist and I-70 would take it’s place.  When it meets the I-25/I-76/US-36 interchange, I-70 would then cross West Denver through what is now I-76 between I-25 and Wadsworth Boulevard.  Interstate 70 between I-25 and I-270 would be replaced with a six lane boulevard and a wide greenway.  The portion of I-70 that is currently between Wadsworth Boulevard and I-25 would remain in place.

Above is a rendering of what advocates of the reroute plan are calling for.  The claim a boulevard would better reconnect Denver than keeping the freeway in place, but many people are also against the plan.  A large number of factories and warehouses are along the stretch of I-70 in question and they don’t want to lose freeway access.  Also, commuters coming in from the East side of Denver don’t want to lose the only East-West freeway connection that Denver has.

While the plan to replace the freeway with a boulevard is interesting, there may be little hope for this proposal.  CoDOT received final approval for the project in January 2017, and construction is slated to begin in early 2018.  More information about the planned project can be found here.