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'Central 70' highway project to bring jobs, opposition

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By Leo Wolfson

Colorado Department of Transportation officials want to help Commerce City and the surrounding area by requiring that 20 percent of highway construction workers come from there for the new “Central 70” project.

The $1.2 billion project would move Interstate 70 below ground between Brighton and Colorado boulevards southwest of Commerce City. About 350 workers from Commerce City and the north Denver neighborhoods near Interstate 70 would be hired from low-income areas surrounding road construction under federal program road construction requirements.

“Commerce City has actively participated with residents, businesses agencies and nonprofits to find a transportation solution that balances a variety of local and regional needs for the past 14 years,” Commerce City Mayor Pro Tem René Bullock said in a press statement.

Many residents in the planned highway construction area have voiced opposition to the construction plan - worried that construction will uncover hazardous soil and groundwater from an area that is a former Superfund site, and displace as many as 50 families. Interstate 70 runs above the Globeville neighborhood in north Denver slightly southwest of Commerce City.

On Sunday, July 9, area residents and Denver law office Keating, Wagner, Polidori and Free, filed an environmental lawsuit against the Colorado Department of Transportation. The Sierra Club environmental nonprofit group followed suit on Monday, July 10.

A 10-mile stretch of Interstate 70 is involved. One new express lane would be built in each direction, a 53-year-old viaduct would be removed and a four-acre park would be built over the underground highway. Workers also would build new homes in local neighborhoods.

“We all know that significant transportation challenges lie ahead. A similar commitment of meaningful collaboration will be essential to collectively solve our state’s infrastructure and mobility problems,” said Bullock.