DENVER (CBS4)– Residents living in the Elyria-Swansea neighborhood say they have managed to get through the challenges of the Central 70 Project for years now but it has been a struggle for some residents. As the Mile High Shift begins Friday night, the process of moving traffic from the aging viaduct to the new lowered section of the interstate, they hope a finished project will lead to more assistance for their community.

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“I’ve seen a lot of changes and I’m excited to see the freeway open,” said Yvonne Iturralde, a resident who lives near the project. “The old highway is really old and it’s kind of dangerous. What if it falls?”

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She told CBS4 outside her house on Friday that she has dealt with the noise disturbance and the impact on roads around her house. Iturralde explained that she and her neighbors have made it this far and now she is excited for drivers to use the new freeway.

“It just been chaos in this area, mostly in Elyria and Swansea,” said Sandra Ruiz Parrilla with EGS & Partners. “They’ve been stuck in their homes, having to breathe in all the dust that comes and not being able to go out.”

Parrilla says the past year of the project has been extremely difficult for some residents she advocates for with the nonprofit. COVID-19 forced residents to stay in one location when so much was happening around them. While she opposed the project, she has worked to try improving the living conditions for those in the neighborhood since it began, including helping residents get a place to stay when noise from crews kept people up at all hours.

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“We need things here, done here in the community. We need that funding for the residents,” she told CBS4 on Friday. “There’s no funding for that, there’s funding for new streets, there’s no funding for more trees, there’s no funding for anything.”

Those who live just blocks away from the lowered section of I-70 have sidewalks in need of repair as well as lack the greenery and tree canopy neighborhoods that other parts of Denver enjoy, according to Parrilla. She hopes the project will help more residents outside of the immediate neighborhoods take notice of the needs for those living so close to the interstate.

“People outside these three neighborhoods, they don’t see what we have to go through,” she said. “Just to come to see what’s really happening here cause this is part of the city, we’re all the city.”

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The Mile High Shift begins Friday night as a stretch of I-70 closes all weekend allowing drivers to move onto the lowered section in both directions beginning Monday morning. CDOT says the I-70 viaduct will begin the demolition process at the same time, it should last three to five months.

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“We’ve been working through the closures,” Iturralde said. “Let’s just keep going and get it all done.”

Shawn Chitnis