Central 70

The Challenge

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.

Our Solution

At CIG, one of our greatest strengths is the ability to actively listen, build trust, and adapt our strategies and recommendations as needed. So we immediately reached out to the community that would be impacted by this project, knocked on doors and visited schools to truly understand their needs and concerns. We also added a dedicated bilingual community liaison role to reach the Spanish-speaking community in the GES area.

We heard concerns from school leaders regarding safety so we created informative yet fun pieces for Swansea Elementary students and their families. These items included fun facts sheets, safety posters featuring a memorable project mascot and animal-themed safety stickers, as well as a calendar featuring the kids’ drawings of construction. All collateral was printed in English and Spanish to reflect the language needs of the community.

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. 

volunteer hours

The Results

In 2019, there were 378 mentions of the Central 70 project on TV, online, in print, and on the radio, including 21 radio interviews. The Project’s website had more than 54,000 hits. More than 1 million people were reached through 260 tweets and nearly 1 million were reached through Facebook posts. There were also zero noise complaints.

The GES community has come a long way in trusting the Central 70 Project. We owe it to CIG’s ability to listen, learn and adapt our approach in real time. This is our community and we’re deeply invested in it. We’ve created and nurtured relationships built on mutual trust and shared goals. 

By working with the specific needs of this community, we’ve learned and addressed the ins and outs of their concerns, questions and pain points. We’ve celebrated successes together and problem solved together. As the Central 70 Project continues to transform communities, commerce, connections and Colorado, CIG is excited to be right there supporting the project along the way.

people reached via Twitter

We’ve created and nurtured relationships built on mutual trust and shared goals. 

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Denver, CO 80264

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