The Post ed­i­to­rial: Af­ter 14 years, we feel strongly that the planned I-70 ex­pan­sion is the right thing for the state.

The Denver Post - - NEWS -

It’s a con­cern­ing recipe for dis­as­ter: a low-in­come neigh­bor­hood, sur­rounded by con­tam­i­na­tion from heavy in­dus­try, fac­ing the con­dem­na­tions and de­mo­li­tions of houses for a ma­jor con­struc­tion project in a time when the hous­ing mar­ket is sky­rock­et­ing.

For­tu­nately, the Colorado De­part­ment of Trans­porta­tion is do­ing things right as it pre­pares to ex­pand In­ter­state 70 and drop it be­low grade so a cap can re­unite com­mu­ni­ties and be­come a school play­ground and park.

Be­fore we roll through the list of good things CDOT is do­ing to pla­cate res­i­dents, we’ll give credit where its is due: Many of these ac­com­mo­da­tions were made in re­sponse to vo­cal and or­ga­nized ad­vo­cacy on be­half of a com­mu­nity that has suf­fered his­tor­i­cally from a lack of re­sources. Those ad­vo­cates should be ap­plauded for their dili­gence and good work.

How­ever, af­ter 14 years, we feel strongly that the planned I-70 ex­pan­sion on its ex­ist­ing route through north Den­ver and Aurora is the right thing for the state. The cost of the $1.2 bil­lion project will only be driven up by fur­ther de­lay. Re­main­ing points of con­cern — about stormwa­ter or pol­lu­tion — should be ad­dressed by en­gi­neers in the fi­nal stages of prepa­ra­tion for con­struc­tion. The last-minute law­suits filed last week to chal­lenge the project are mis­guided; CDOT def­i­nitely shouldn’t “Ditch the Ditch.”

Plain­tiffs ques­tion whether CDOT’s en­gi­neers ad­e­quately ac­counted for the wa­ter that will flow through this flood­plain on a project that puts a ma­jor in­ter­state be­low grade. Fair ques­tion, but we are sat­is­fied by CDOT’s re­sponse that the project’s stormwa­ter sys­tem is de­signed to han­dle big storms on its own and is not de­pen­dent on the city’s near­si­mul­ta­ne­ous plans to ad­dress stormwa­ter is­sues in the same area.

What’s the right way to take 56 homes and to sad­dle a com­mu­nity with years of con­struc­tion and an ex­panded in­ter­state? Here’s a guide:

CDOT pushed for in­creased abil­ity to com­pen­sate prop­erty own­ers and renters for their dis­place­ment un­der the fed­eral Uni­form Re­lo­ca­tion As­sis­tance and Real Prop­erty Ac­qui­si­tion Poli­cies Act.

A CDOT of­fi­cial says 24 renters have elected to take the 42 months of rental pay­ments as a lump sum and are us­ing the money as a down pay­ment to be­come home­own­ers in a neigh­bor­hood of their choos­ing.

Home­own­ers are not just handed the cash value of their home, a price that would likely leave them un­able to buy any­thing else in the city or even first-ring sub­urbs. In­stead CDOT works to find re­place­ment hous­ing in their pre­ferred lo­ca­tion and pays for the dif­fer­ence.

For an­other 300 home­own­ers and renters who aren’t in the ac­tual path of the fu­ture in­ter­state, CDOT is com­mit­ted to equip­ping their homes with storm win­dows and ei­ther a win­dow or por­ta­ble air con­di­tion­ing unit; the city will work with some to bridge the gap be­tween that and in­stalling a per­ma­nent cen­tral AC sys­tem. Home­own­ers will also get util­ity cred­its to help off­set the in­creased cost of op­er­at­ing these units.

CDOT has set aside $2 mil­lion for af­ford­able hous­ing in the city.

Fi­nally, CDOT launched a job train­ing cen­ter in the com­mu­nity last week to train neigh­bor­hood res­i­dents so they can help fill a re­quire­ment that 20 per­cent of the work­force on the project come from 15 neigh­bor­hoods sur­round­ing I-70 through Den­ver and Aurora. That’s ap­prox­i­mately 350 jobs, re­ports The Den­ver Post’s Jon Mur­ray.

It’s time to ditch the de­lay and, if not ac­cept the of­fer on the ta­ble, make a nu­anced and spe­cific plea for what else is needed.

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