Central 70, the stretch of I-70 between I-25 and Chambers Road, is one of Colorado’s economic backbones. It is home to 1,200 businesses, provides regional connections to Denver International Airport, carries upwards of 200,000 vehicles per day and runs through the historic neighborhoods of Globeville and Elyria-Swansea (GES).
However, Denver’s exponential growth has increased congestion and worn down the current infrastructure. The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) is bringing this aging highway into the 21st century while rejoining the surrounding communities along the way.
The $1.2 billion Central 70 Project will reconstruct a 10-mile stretch of I-70 between Brighton Boulevard and Chambers Road, add one new Express Lane in each direction, remove the aging 56-year-old viaduct, lower the interstate between Brighton and Colorado boulevards, and place a 4-acre park over a portion of the lowered interstate.
A project of this magnitude running through the heart of Denver does not come without controversy and challenges, and CDOT put their trust in CIG’s qualified and experienced communications team to lead strategic planning, visioning, education and community relations. The CIG team has worked hard to build trust with community members, businesses, commuters and project partners alike by providing proactive, reliable and effective communication.
CDOT put their trust in CIG’s qualified and experienced communications team.
CIG organized several public art events along the I-70 viaduct to strengthen the Project’s relationship with the community. In 2016 and 2017, we brought in local artists to unleash their creative magic on the blank concrete walls of the viaduct along Central 70, transforming them into a bright and colorful urban gallery. We celebrated with a block party featuring music, food trucks and a designated area of the wall where kids could practice their own urban art skills. When the road between Swansea Elementary School and the viaduct closed, 30 local artists converged on the school grounds to paint new murals on the blank fence constructed along the south side of the school. Titled “Play Your Art Out,” this event created another colorful gallery for the students and teachers to enjoy.
A requirement for the Central 70 Project was to ensure resident access to schools, homes and businesses throughout the construction period. So CDOT partnered with Northeast Transportation Services (NETC) to offer transportation programs and services to help the neighborhoods affected by the construction. These included free grocery shuttles and monthly RTD passes for those who qualified. NETC also designed incentive programs for employees who carpooled or took public transit to work.
We further demonstrated Central 70’s commitment to enriching the GES community during construction through various shoe, sock, toy and blood drives. Community meetings were held at local businesses, and neighborhood food trucks were regularly parked in the Project’s construction parking lot for community members to enjoy. Support through donations and volunteering were provided to local nonprofits such as We Don’t Waste and GrowHaus.
The COVID-19 pandemic changed how the team could regularly interact with the community, so we switched gears and hosted virtual office hours and community meetings online. CIG also worked closely with CDOT to implement its first-ever vlog (video blog) as a way to personalize the Project. Whether in person or online, making ourselves available to the community has been a top priority since day one.
In addition to targeted community outreach, CIG needed to strategize the best ways to reach the thousands of motorists who travel the I-70 corridor daily. To do so, we developed various videos to tell the story of Central 70’s progress and created infographics and interactive graphics to help explain technical elements of the Project in an educational and engaging way.
The CIG team works nights and weekends to ensure that the surrounding community and commuters are heard as well as informed. In 2019 alone, the public information team spent 940 hours conducting community outreach, worked 355 volunteer hours, and held more than 100 presentations and public and community meetings to keep residents aware of closures, detours, etc. In addition, we sent out numerous social media posts, newsletters, construction notices delivered door-to-door, e-blasts, and text alerts.