DENVER (CBS4) – The Interstate 70 viaduct between Brighton Boulevard and Colorado Boulevard has divided two Denver neighborhoods for decades. People living along that stretch of I-70 are now getting their first look at a plan to move the highway underground.
The Colorado Department of Transportation has been trying to figure out what to do with the bridge for nearly a decade. The viaduct, which splits the Swansea and Elyria neighborhoods, was built in 1964. It now it handles a lot more traffic than it was designed to handle.
“It’s not a tunnel, but what we’re proposing is to lower the highway, so it’s a cut, in essence,” CDOT spokeswoman Stacey Stegman said.
The cut would be similar to what was done at Washington and Interstate 25 during the T-Rex project where traffic flows below ground level. On top of the traffic would be a deck with a park built over it.
The cut would be a piece of a $1 billion project to improve I-70 on the north side of Denver. Construction would begin within the next five years for what could be the most expensive highway project ever in Colorado.
“I-70 is absolutely critical to the mobility of the metro area,” Stegman said.
Vincent and Judy Sanchez have owned the Stop-N-Shop in the Swansea neighborhood for 25 years. They have had steady business in the shadow of the I-70 viaduct, but that shadow is about to go away one way or another.
“We’re out of here,” Vincent said. “We’re in the way. Me and my wife and the store, we’re in the way.”
Some businesses and homes will be replaced by any improvement, so Sanchez and their customers have had mixed feelings.
“The ones that are going to get there houses taken out are very disappointed because they put a lot of money, a lot of work into their houses; and basically they’re hoping for a fair, fair deal,” Vincent Sanchez said.
“I’m going to lose my house and move someplace else, because I’m right next to the highway,” homeowner Betty Wonder said.
Sanchez says whatever happens with I-70, he’s hoping for appropriate compensation.
“My hope is they’re fair, if they relocate me, you know, a fair market price. Basically, that’s all we can really say,” he said.
Stegman says the state will do all it can to help homeowners and businesses that have to relocate.
“It’s good, they need it. The bridge is; we’ve seen it fall apart,” Vincent Sanchez said.
The first public meeting on the viaduct plan took place at the Commerce City Civic Center on Wednesday. The second will be Thursday starting at 5:30 p.m. at the Swansea Recreation Center on East 49th Avenue.