[Comment/Opinions by Keith Howard, long-time SUNI Board member and resident, which does not necessarily reflect the opinions of all of the Board – it has not been discussed board-wide]
All of Sunnyside is within ten blocks of I-70. Sitting in my yard on the corner of 43rd and Umatilla, I’m five blocks south of the Highway, and I can always hear it. I’ve thought of installing a little fountain to mask the sound, but what can I do to block the air pollution? Of course, cities are not perfectly quiet and pristine places, but at some point it is reasonable to say, Enough!
The massive expansion that CDOT is proposing for I-70 East (from Brighton Blvd. to Tower Rd.) will dig North Denver deeper into an already deep hole. Dennis Gallagher, the independently elected Denver City Auditor, says enough is enough. He is vigorously opposing the extra lanes CDOT wants to build. From Brighton to Colorado Ave. two toll lanes in each direction, and two surface access lanes in each direction (required because the highway will be put into a deep trench — perfect for flooding, BTW), bring the grand total to 14 lanes, tripling the width of the present sacrifice zone. CDOT (and the Mayor of Denver!) say that this will “reconnect” the neighborhoods damaged by the original construction of the Interstate. For the Mayor to make such a preposterous claim is clear evidence that Mr. Hancock is counting on the people of Denver not paying any attention. Councilwoman Judy Montero agrees with the Mayor. She has told people in Sunnyside and other neighborhoods that they should butt out, and that only the people who live in Globeville and Swansea-Elyria (G/SE) have a right to weigh in on this matter.
I beg to differ. Big highway projects cost a lot, and all the taxpayers of Colorado are ultimately responsible for the charges. There isn’t any free money available, no matter how “innovative” the financing. Maybe the consequences aren’t as direct and immediate as what the people in G/SE will suffer, but the whole economy of the State will be affected. CDOT and the Mayor don’t want any further discussion of alternative ideas and proposals, even though the present condition of I-70 East is not an emergency.
For sure, Sunnyside has plenty of issues already. But I think it is important to stand with other neighborhoods that live with the effects of Interstate 70. For one thing, if CDOT ever wants to widen I-70 west of the Mousetrap, protest from Sunnyside now will make a record of opposition to misguided highway widening in general. Interstate highways were never intended to go through cities: the idea was to go around them. It’s never easy to fix the errors of the past. But why should we allow a bad mistake made in the late 50s to control the future of North Denver forever?
Mr. Gallagher is holding a rally against the widening of I-70 East this Saturday, at noon, at the McNichols Building, 144 W. Colfax, across the street from the City and County Building. I expect that it’ll be a pretty entertaining event. And I’m sure there will be a lot more information on the project, the Environmental Impact Statement process, and on how other cities increasingly recognize that it can be better to remove freeways than to widen them. I plan to be there, maybe waving a sign. Or, better, perhaps it’s not too late to rent a skunk costume.
[I plan to post more information here on the I-70 East Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (DSEIS.) This NEPA process has reached a critical phase: the official comment period on the DSEIS. How to comment effectively is not quite intuitive. More later on this.]