The widening of I-70 through Denver is often treated like a done deal, but the Federal Highway Administration still needs to sign off on the state’s plans.
And that decision, once expected by the end of summer, has been pushed back until early 2017 so that the Colorado Department of Transportation can address some of the hundreds of comments it received on the Environmental Impact Statement.
That means construction wouldn’t start until 2018, CDOT said in an update on the project website.
Whether the widening will make air quality issues worse for the people who live along the highway has been a major point of contention. In addition to submitting comments on the EIS, the Sierra Club, the Elyria and Swansea Neighborhood Association and the Cross Community Coalition have sued the Environmental Protection Agency over changes to air quality standards. Without those changes, they don’t believe the highway project would be in compliance.
Last week, a federal appeals court denied a motion to put the project on hold, pending the outcome of the lawsuit, but it also denied a motion from the EPA to dismiss the lawsuit. Instead, the whole thing has been referred to a merits panel to decide if the lawsuit should go forward.
CDOT spokeswoman Rebecca White told the Denver Post the delay would allow the department to incorporate new air quality modeling that goes through 2040. The modeling used in the impact statement only went through 2035. White called the delay “incredibly minor” in the context of a process that has dragged on for 13 years.