Residents Had Complained of Highway Noise, Cars Crashing Through Fencing
Quieter days and safety from errant drivers may be ahead for people living near I-70.
The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) began work in March on the sound walls along 5,500 feet of the north and south sides of I-70 between Tennyson Street and Lowell Boulevard. This is part of a larger project of about three miles to improve noise barriers between Pecos Street and I-76 at Wadsworth Boulevard.
“After years of advocating for updates to the sound walls, I am thrilled to celebrate the groundbreaking of this project that will improve the quality of life for my community,” District 1 Councilwoman Amanda Sandoval said.
Concrete walls will replace the deteriorating timber panels, and the first phase of the project is expected to be completed in July, according to CDOT. The project’s remaining phases are being designed and will be presented in early 2023.
As The Denver North Star previously reported, from Pecos Street to I-76, the tattered wooden fencing that blocks out noise from nearby homes has fallen in some sections, with the area of Tennyson to Lowell designated by CDOT as having the most need for repairs.
The existing sound walls are about 50 years old, and, in addition to not effectively reducing noise, they have not helped improve air quality and other environmental conditions, according to CDOT. The new walls will also undergo landscaping restoration to reseed and plant trees in the area.
“This project will improve safety as we won’t be dealing with the falling timber fences, but it will also provide quality of life benefits for the people who live nearby with a better and more durable barrier from the highway noise and emissions along this busy stretch of I-70,” said CDOT Executive Director Shoshana Lew.
In May, The Denver North Star observed noise levels from a resident’s device that registered 77 to 85 decibels, with spikes as high as 95 at times, during a weekday afternoon. Most of the higher readings came when semi-trucks applied compression brakes.
Residents also documented incidents of vehicles driving through the wooden fences and landing on the frontage street below.
Last year, CDOT received $134 million in federal funding from the American Recovery Plan Act, and it is using $9.7 million of that for the first phase of the roughly one-mile project between Lowell and Tennyson. It received another $20 million from the state legislature for the remaining two miles.
Reconstruction of the south wall began at Lowell Boulevard and will end at Tennyson Street, and reconstruction of the north started and will end in the opposite direction.
The website codot.gov/projects/i70-noise-wall-replacement-denver has traffic updates in the area and the specific work CDOT crews are performing during the week.
Some traffic delays CDOT said motorists should consider include:
• Right shoulder closures on east and westbound I-70 between Lowell Boulevard and Tennyson Street
• Single lane closures on West 48th Avenue North and West 48th Avenue South
• Periodic daytime full closures of West 48th Avenue North and West 48th Avenue South during installation of the new concrete wall panels
Message boards will be placed in the neighborhoods in advance of lane closures, and residents near I-70 should expect “typical construction noise” during working hours, CDOT stated.
Eric Heinz is a journalist based in Denver who contributes frequently to the Denver North Star and GES Gazette.