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By David Sachs
In February, Colorado Department of Transportation Director Shailen Bhatt told a group of people fighting the widening of I-70 through north Denver neighborhoods to “sue us.” The advocates took his advice.
The lawsuit against the Federal Highway Administration, brought by developer Kyle Zeppelin and other opponents of the highway widening, will officially be filed Monday — the last possible date to challenge the environmental impact statement (EIS).
FHWA approved and is helping to fund CDOT’s project. The complaint says the agency violated the National Environmental Protection Act by failing to conduct sufficient oversight of the project’s EIS.
The suit takes specific aim at the agreement Denver reached with CDOT in 2015 that put local taxpayers on the hook for a project to funnel stormwater away from the 40-foot ditch the agency plans to dig to widen the freeway. The FHWA approved an EIS that did not account for the flood protection project, and the lawsuit aims to “show that both the City of Denver and CDOT intentionally hid the connection between the Platte to Park Hill Drainage Project and the Central I-70 project,” according to a press release.
Other lawsuits are still pending against CDOT’s plan to triple the footprint of I-70, which would generate more traffic and displace people in the mostly low-income, Latino neighborhoods of Elyria, Swansea, and Globeville. Advocates fighting the highway widening are going for a cumulative effect in court.
“Rather than have a single strategy, we’re trying to have a multi-pronged strategy,” said Brad Evans, who runs the Ditch the Ditch advocacy group and is also a plaintiff.
In related legal developments, there will be hearing in DC this September for a lawsuit that challenges the Environmental Protection Agency’s lax air quality standards. And there’s also an active lawsuit against the city over the City Park Golf Course water detention plan tied to I-70.
“The ideal outcome would be to put an end to the whole project,” said Jennifer Winkel, a local activist and spokesperson for the plaintiffs. “There are four lawsuits, and this is the one that will stall it, buy us some time … If we tie it up in the courts, that buys us time for the other lawsuits to do what they need to do.”
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Posted: June 21, 2017 at 10:39 am by KGNU News
The Colorado Department of Transportation is planning to expand the 10-mile section of I-70 that runs between I-25 and Chambers Road in Denver. The Elyria/Swansea and Globeville neighborhoods will be most impacted, with opponents to the project saying these low-income neighborhoods will suffer from years of construction disruption and that ultimately the project will lead to more gentrification. CDOT’s plans would see the existing two-mile viaduct demolished and in its place a highway below ground level that will be triple the width of the existing road.
Opponents say the expansion would displace at least 56 households and worsen local air quality. More than 80 percent of residents in the Elyria-Swansea neighborhood are Latino, and a third of the residents live in poverty. Opponents of the highway expansion used those demographics in a lawsuit to stop the project, saying that poor and minority communities would be disproportionately impacted. In April Federal civil rights investigators found that CDOT’s plan would be less discriminatory toward Elyria-Swansea and Globeville, than any other option studied.
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June 18, 2017, by Tammy Vigil
Fox/Channel 2 News Jun 18, 2017
DENVER — We’ve been talking about expanding I-70 through the metro for nearly 15 years. And still, opposition to it stands strong–literally.
Dozens of folks came out to continue fighting the I-70 Expansion project they say is too expensive and won’t do much to reduce traffic congestion on Sunday.
The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) built the section of I-70 in the 1960’s. And now, CDOT will rebuild what’s considered the worst-rated bridge starting early next year.
That is, unless, a group with their “Ditch the Ditch” signs, can halt the highway.
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Published in Denver Streets Blog
The Center for Health, Environment, and Justice has joined the Elyria Swansea Neighborhood Association in the fight against a wider I-70, granting $5,000 to the cause.
CHEJ is based in Falls Church, Virginia, but has national reach. Environmental health activist Lois Marie Gibbs founded the organization after a successful campaign to get New York state to clean up the Love Canal site in the 1970s. The state had insisted for years that an industrial dumping ground in Niagara Falls had nothing to do with elevated rates of childhood illness and birth defects. Gibbs’ led the fight to protect people from pollutants at Love Canal and became known as the “Mother of Superfund,” the federal program for remediating toxic sites.
The new grant won’t fund litigation against the I-70 project — though legal action is still likely — but will rather amplify the message of Denverites already fighting the project.
“Local residents are the most qualified environmental police CHEJ knows,” Gibbs said in a statement.
The Colorado Department of Transportation’s plan to push more cars through the mostly Latino, low-income neighborhoods of Globeville, Elyria, and Swansea, requires digging a 40-foot ditch. To protect that ditch from flooding, the Hancock administration and Denver City Council made a deal with CDOT: They put Denver taxpayers on the hook for widening I-70 in exchange for flood protection work.
Nearby residents are concerned about the environmental implications of both projects. In addition to the traffic and pollution that come from widening a highway, there’s toxic soil — rife with lead and arsenic — at the site of the outfall project, which is part of a federal Superfund site [PDF]. All this in the most polluted populated area in the United States.
“We just don’t have faith that CDOT, the city, or the [Environmental Protection Agency] has followed required procedures, or that they’ll follow the rules in the future,” ESNA President Drew Dutcher told Streetsblog.
Feeding that distrust, Dutcher said, is the fact that CDOT decided against a prior version of the I-70 ditch because of “unacceptable effects on aquatic and ecological resources and increased potential for encountering contaminated groundwater or soils,” according to a 2008 environmental impact statement (page 3-17). He wants to know what’s changed.
The city is trying to “control the public image” of the projects, Dutcher said, and the grant will counteract that by boosting the research and outreach efforts of north Denver residents.
“We really feel that we’re being spoon-fed information by the city and EPA, and we need resources to just look at all the work that’s being done, how it’s being monitored, what are the possible hazards,” Dutcher said. “So it’s really just kind of a citizen-led effort to understand everything that’s going on.”
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