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The Central Interstate 70 Reconstruction Project in Denver, Colorado: Repeating a 1960s Planning Failure?

Authors: Andrew Goetz*, University of Denver
Topics: Transportation Geography, Urban and Regional Planning
Keywords: highway, transportation, planning, Denver
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) is reconstructing a 10-mile stretch of Interstate 70 through central Denver, Colorado, including removal of the existing 55-year-old viaduct that will be replaced by a widened below-grade segment. While CDOT, the City and County of Denver, other jurisdictions and local organizations are supporting the preferred alternative, many residents from the Elyria-Swansea neighborhood, a low-income minority community, are concerned about the health and environmental impacts from the construction and operation of the estimated $1.8 billion highway project. The need to replace the crumbling viaduct was an opportunity to re-route the highway through less-populated areas and to redress the 1960s plan to build the original highway through the middle of several inner-city neighborhoods. The decision to rebuild and widen the highway in the same alignment raises numerous questions, and may compound an original planning failure with an even greater one. The purpose of this paper is to summarize and assess both the earlier and current planning processes through analyses of planning documents and interviews with key actors and participants. While construction has already begun with an estimated completion in 2022, this controversial project has raised environmental justice concerns within a city that is committing itself otherwise toward a more sustainable transport future.

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