One of the most shocking things to come out of last week’s gubernatorial forum is that every Democratic candidate for Governor supports the currently planned expansion of I-70. I didn’t expect the majority of the candidates to oppose the I-70 expansion, but I did expect at least one Democrat to challenge some of the specifics of the project.
I have spent years looking at the planned “ditch” and I still cannot understand how this makes any sense. Whether it is:
• The outlandish cost – over $2 BILLION for barely 2 miles of road;
• The fact that all additional lanes are going to be designated as High Occupancy Vehicle – the so-called Lexus Lanes that you have to pay to drive on;
• The fact that there is a clear and obvious alternative that has not been fully and adequately investigated – expanding I-270, the whole project is a boondoggle of epic proportions.
All of these concerns were validated and explained in detail in a White Paper developed by the American Planning Association (the country’s premier professional organization for Urban Planners) on October 15, 2014. This group specifically noted that the Denver Regional Council of Governments has used outdated model projections to validate the need for this project.
What angers me most about the project is how it is being built on the backs of some of our most distressed neighborhoods without any meaningful input or concern. Whether you look at the project from a social and economic justice standpoint or from the view of the unacceptable environmental impact the project will create, the “Ditch” is unjustified. It severely impacts Denver communities from Park Hill and City Park through Elyria, Swansea, and Globeville.
If we learned anything from the T-REX project that expanded I-25 through southeast Denver, it is you cannot build your way out of traffic congestion. When T-REX was finished it added significantly more lanes and the chronic bumper-to-bumper traffic was relieved… at least for a year or two. But now, 15 years later the traffic is worse than ever. Better, expanded, mass transit, and better urban planning is our only way out of this mess.
I fully expect that GOP politicians would put the interests of business and commerce ahead of those of individuals and the disenfranchised communities, but I expect more from the individuals vying to be the standard-bearer of the Colorado Democratic Party.
There is no question that the current highway is in disrepair and needs to be replaced. But doing right by our community and being financially mindful is crucial. This is about more than the business of our city. It is also about the future we want for our community.
As your Congressman, I will make a thorough review of the project, and the faulty process that created it, a priority. With billions of your federal, state and local tax dollars at stake, you should expect no less. With the health and well-being of our citizens at risk, we must do better. I will.