Final Study Simply More Flawed Process
By Dennis Royer
The Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the Interstate 70 reconstruction was released Jan.12. It is available on the East I-70 website at i-70east.com for those who wish to review it and comment at the upcoming public hearings.
To avoid wasting time, you can skip the executive summary, since it does little to describe the recommendation other than to say the preferred alternative is the partial cover lower option with managed lanes.
You have to delve into the 948-page Volume 1 of the report to get any detailed information. Volume 2 contains the 17 technical studies that supposedly detail and justify the selected alternative. It totals 6,066 pages.
Volume 3 is the public comments submitted for the Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (SDEIS) from 2015. This time they did not redact the identities of the public commenters as they did in the SDEIS when they were claiming privacy considerations. The public comments total 2,105 pages. In essence, the report follows the old political axiom: If you can’t convince them with the facts, baffle them with BS!
Public comments ignored
Due to the length of the report, it is not possible to give a complete analysis of the documentation at this time. However, it is clear that little has changed from the draft, and all those public comments were basically ignored.
The Colorado Department of Transportation clearly intends to push their agenda over the objections of the public. Case in point: a workshop was set up with the Transportation Commission in February 2015. Their “value of money” report and the notice to the public was released two days before the workshop, which was held at CDOT headquarters at 8 a.m.
Only six members of the public spoke since there was little advance notice and it was held at an hour and location not convenient to the affected neighborhoods. However, the hearing room was jammed by the private sector contractors and consultants who want the contract work. I wonder how they found out about the workshop – let alone the transportation commissioners who would have had to agree to the meeting weeks in advance.
One of the key responses to the Commission was that 900 comments were received from the public concerning the SDEIS, which the Federal Highway Administration says is about normal. They failed to mention, however, that 99.9 percent of the comments were opposed to the preferred alternative, that the public process was in its 12th year, and that it was the second draft report! That should be considered anything but normal. Funny how those little details get glossed over by CDOT staff.
Industrial nature of the corridor
The report is still set up to avoid giving the public information that shows the resulting traffic impacts associated with their preferred analysis. Traffic volumes on east-west streets in the study area are still portrayed as gross volumes crossing screen lines. There are no assignments on streets that might reveal errors in the modelling or that might indicate potential future problems on arterials parallel to I-70.
The figures supporting the analysis of the five alternatives that were studied are presented in block diagrams for individual segments that do not accurately reflect what occurs in those segments. For example, 46th Avenue is closed between Clayton and Columbine, but the travel time diagram does not show an increase in time to cross from the north side to south side and around the closure, nor a reduction in traffic volumes, which will utilize local streets to avoid the closure.
There are still glaring errors in statements concerning what will happen based on their proposals. They claim there will be a “spreading of the peak traffic” due to drivers trying to avoid the high cost of tolls in the managed lanes.
CDOT does not seem to realize the industrial nature of the corridor, which has significant employees on shifts that are unable to adjust their work hours. Let alone most workers are required to work specific hours, unlike CDOT employees who are on flexible schedules. The peak periods on I-70 already extend four hours or more on workdays.
They claim the preferred alternative “… significantly increases the volumes processed by I-70 during peak hours.” That is not possible when five general traffic lanes can accommodate 11,000 vehicles per hour at capacity, while three general traffic lanes and two managed lanes, operating at 45 miles per hour, can only accommodate 8,400 vehicles per hour.
They further claim that the managed lane alternatives will result in lower volumes on local streets when their own figures show the highest volumes on local streets with managed lanes.
CoPIRG calls it a boondoggle
I could continue to point out numerous mistakes and misstatements, but I’ll let you come to your own conclusions. Needless to say, the Final Environmental Impact Study is simply a continuation of the flawed process written up in the Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (SDEIS).
Shortly after the EIS was released, the organization Colorado Public Interest Research Group was the latest to weigh in on the I-70 widening “boondoggle,” calling it a massive waste. “While replacing a crumbling viaduct that needs to be addressed, Colorado proposes wasting millions of dollars widening the road and increasing pollution in the surrounding community,” notes the report, which can be read at copirgfoundation.org/reports/cof/highway-boondoggles-2.
Unless the public chooses to seriously contest the SDEIS, Colorado Department of Transportation officials intend to shove their 10-lane, expandable to 14 lanes down the public’s throat and destroy the Swansea/Elyria and Globeville neighborhoods of north Denver.
I’m surprised that their cover letter did not start out “Dear Citizens, UP YOURS! That would not be politically correct, although much closer to the truth.
Dennis Royer is the former Chief of Public Works and Transportation/Commissioner of Public Works in Boston. Prior to that he was the City Traffic Engineer for Denver Public Works for 15 years and then Deputy Manager for seven years. He has lived in Park Hill for 29 years (other than his brief move to the East Coast). The opinion expressed in this commentary is his own. Past coverage of the I-70 widening plan can be read at greaterparkhill.org.
Interstate 70 Public Hearings
• Feb. 1 — Aurora: 5 to 8 p.m., North Middle School, 12095 Montview Blvd.
• Feb. 2 — Commerce City: 5 to 8 p.m., Adams City High School, 7200 Quebec Pkwy.
• Feb. 3 — Denver: 5 to 8 p.m., Bruce Randolph Middle School, 3355 Steele St.