News that construction on the I-70 expansion through Denver could run 24/7 for the next 65 months drew prompt backlash from people concerned about additional noise and pollution for such a sustained period.
Now, Kiewit Meridiam Partners, the contractor for the $1.2 billion lane widening project, says it’s reconsidering that plan.
Kiewit has asked Denver’s Board of Public Health and Environment to delay a hearing on the 24/7-through-2023 construction proposal, which was set for review by the board on Thursday. Such a schedule would require a variance, which only that board can approve. Kiewit’s asking to push the hearing to Aug. 9.
“We want to work further with (Public Health and Environment) to make our variance request answers the questions that people are asking,” said Hunter Sydner, spokeswoman for Kiewit.
Asked what aspects of the plan Kiewit is specifically going to reconsider ahead of August’s meeting, Sydnor mentioned the duration of the variance and the manner in which Kiewit engages with the public about its progress on the 10-mile project.
Sydner has said that if Kiewit can’t get a variance for round-the-clock construction work, it could mean the project’s end date gets pushed back. Kiewit said it expects to finish construction in 2022, but drafted its variance request for 2023 in anticipation of any unexpected delays.
Yadira Sanchez, a community activist who opposes the expansion, said she believes Kiewit and the city knew all along that this project would take longer than five years, and that they proposed the 24/7 work in order to try to meet an “impossible deadline.”
“I think they should have a little bit more consideration for all the people living in this neighborhood, who are humans,” said Sanchez. “It’s more important than them trying to meet their deadline. They need to face reality.”
City Council President Albus Brooks, who represents much of the affected area — Globeville, Elyria-Swansea, upper Park Hill, Cole and Clayton are all nearby the project stretch — said last week that the variance request should have a new duration and public engagement plan. He advised 48 months instead of 65, and asked for quarterly updates to citizens.
Mayor Michael Hancock is “pleased” to see Kiewit reconsidering its plans.
“This will give the contractor time for additional community engagement,” said mayoral spokeswoman Amber Miller. “This was the right decision.”