Woman’s Ski Lift Death Prompts Colorado to Recommend Changes to Lift Systems Across the State

Lift Systems Across

The death of a Texas mother who fell from a Ski Granby Ranch chairlift last year has prompted state inspectors to recommend changes to lift systems across Colorado and mull taking regulatory steps to prevent such a tragedy from happening again.

Larry Smith, Colorado’s chief chairlift inspector, says he is working with resorts and colleagues across the country and beyond — who are keeping close tabs on how the state moves forward — to share what has been gleaned from investigations into the accident.

He said the possible changes to the state’s chairlifts will be small and ones that riders likely won’t notice, but that drastically reduce the chances of another improbable death like 40-year-old Kelly Huber’s.

“The chances of that occurring again are extremely small without making any changes,” Smith said in an interview Monday with The Denver Post. “But now that we’ve learned from that and go forward and make the changes, it’s going to reduce that probability again to the point where it hopefully doesn’t ever occur again.”

Smith said the complex set of circumstances — mechanics, electronics, lift design and chair load — that lined up to lead a chair carrying Huber and her two young daughters to hit a tower were so rare the probability was “like getting hit by lightning inside a building.” However, alterations to old lifts and requirements for new lifts moving forward should keep them from lining up again.

Mainly, the Colorado Passenger Tramway Safety Board and Smith are looking to implement a system that creates a delay between when lift operators slow and accelerate a chairlift’s speed. That should eliminate or dampen so-called dynamics in a lift’s line that can make a chair dramatically bounce up and down and sway side to side.

Quickdraw Express at Ski Granby Ranch.

“It’s easy to make the changes in the control system and put the delays in,” Smith said. “It’s not expensive, it’s something that we can do and it takes care of all the potential problems with other lifts.”

State investigators have blamed the Ski Granby Ranch’s drive control system as the main culprit in the events leading up to Huber’s death on Dec. 29, 2016. Also contributing to the accident, however, were speed input changes made by an operator who was following normal procedure that sent more energy into the cable.

When the energy from the accelerations and decelerations reached the lightly loaded chair carrying Huber and her daughters — combined with several other factors that day — it caused the chair to bank at a 40-degree angle just at the time it was passing a tower.

“It is unfortunate that Mrs. Huber was in the chair at that particular time,” Smith said. “When you think of the swing of the chair, that tower is only is about 30 inches in diameter, that her swing at that particular time was such that it caught the tower. It’s like getting hit by lightning inside a building. What are the odds of that?”

Investigators say that had the chair carrying Huber not been near the lift tower, the swaying would have simply dissipated.

A Ski Granby Ranch ski patroller wrote in an incident report that he was on a chair just in front of Huber and her girls. He said he heard a rumble on the lift’s line and that he felt the “largest vertical motion I had ever felt in a line” as he grabbed the side of his chair.

The patroller looked back to see Huber and the girls falling to the ground. “The mother was visibly holding one of the children in what appeared to be an attempt to protect the child from the impact of landing,” he wrote.

Adding seconds-long delays when an operator makes speed-change inputs, Smith says, should cancel out those conditions.

“You can’t put any more energy into the cable. For that eight or 10 seconds, or 12 seconds, it runs at a constant state and the dynamics dampen out,” Smith said of how the delay system would work. “You don’t notice that it’s happening when you ride, but engineering- and physics-wise, that’s what occurs.”

The Colorado Passenger Tramway Safety Board is set to consider adding a requirement for the delay system, as well as other regulations. Officials say they are also planning to bring their findings to the American National Standards Institute, which creates guidelines for chairlift safety and inspections across the U.S.

Investigators, in a final report on Huber’s death released last week, made 10 total recommendations in light of their findings, mainly that chairlifts undergo more detailed testing to include different simulated load parameters. Investigators also urged installation of a “black box” on all chairlifts that can record stops, starts and speed changes.

State investigators found recent changes to a control system on the Quickdraw Express, high-speed detachable lift and rapid speed changes made by an operator were the main reasons chair 58 carrying Huber and her daughters slammed into a lift tower, throwing them 25 feet to the ground.

Huber was pronounced dead the day of the fall at Middle Park Medical Center in Granby. Her daughters were taken to hospitals for care. Huber, who lived in San Antonio, was vacationing in Colorado.

Huber’s death was the first in a Colorado chairlift fall since 2002 and the first from a chairlift malfunction in the U.S. since 1993.

On Thursday, Granby Ranch officials said they were reviewing the report. “This is a 151-page report that deserves careful review. Granby Ranch continues to comply with all Tramway Board directives. We would again like to offer our condolences to the Huber family for their loss. Granby Ranch is committed to the health and safety of its guests.”

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Denver Pioneers face-off specialist Trevor Baptiste #9 heads down field with the ball after a face-off against Air Force Falcons Trent Harper #33 in the first quarter in the first round of the NCAA playoffs at Peter Barton Stadium May 13, 2017 in Denver.

Tewaaraton Award finalist Trevor Baptiste proved Saturday why he could become the first faceoff specialist to be named NCAA men’s lacrosse player of the year.

The Denver Pioneers’ junior, who became one of five Tewaaraton finalists Thursday, was the dominant force in the first-ever, all-Colorado NCAA Tournament game at sold-out Barton Lacrosse Stadium.

Against Air Force on a beautiful afternoon, Baptiste was 23-of-27 in draws and scored twice off wins in leading DU to a 17-10 victory and a trip to next week’s Elite Eight.

The Pioneers (12-3), who dominated possession because Babtiste and excellent team ball control, will play Notre Dame or Marquette at the May 20 quarterfinals in Hempstead, N.Y.

Notre Dame hosts Marquette in a first-round game Sunday in South Bend, Ind.

Air Force, which was making its third NCAA Tournament appearance in four years, finishes 12-6.

Babtiste was nine-of-11 in faceoffs in the first half and won the first five to begin the third quarter, scoring off two of them. The Pioneers scored seven times in the third, getting a combined four goals from Babtiste and senior attack Connor Cannizzaro.

DU led 6-3 at halftime on the strength of Austin French’s two goals and three points. Air Force struck first but midfielder Max Planning tied it and French added consecutive goals for a 3-1 DU lead at the 4:48 mark of the first quarter. Three different scorers struck for the Pioneers in the second period and Air Force was limited to just one goal and outshot 23-5 for the half.

The Falcons, however, remained within striking distance because three of their four shots on net got behind goalie Alex Ready, who had just one save in the half.

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RJ Sangosti, Denver Post file The new University of Colorado A-Line train crosses Holly Street along Smith Road on its way the airport, May 10, 2016.

Shuttle buses are being used to transport University of Colorado A-Line riders after delays caused by a power outage, RTD said Thursday morning.

Service is severely delayed and eastbound and westbound passengers are being shuttled to stops between Central Park in the Stapleton neighborhood and Denver International Airport, RTD said in a news release.

RTD also tweeted that a bus and emergency crews were in route to assist passengers stuck on the train near Chambers Crossing.

@RideRTD Your crew is moving around with no urgency laughing and taking pictures!!! We’ve ALl missed our flights!!!!

Train service is in place between Denver Union and Central Park stations.

“Please allow for extra travel time,” RTD says.

Donald Burnes, founder of the University of Denver’s Burnes Center on Poverty and Homelessness. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

It’s a pretty widespread idea and one for which it’s not hard to find anecdotal evidence. This would be the idea that Colorado in general and Denver in particular have gone to pot, with hordes of homeless people flocking to the state to partake without fear of legal consequences.

I put this question to Donald Burnes, founder and co-chair of the Burnes Center on Poverty and Homelessness at the University of Denver’s School of Social Work. He does research on the policy around homelessness, as well as on public discourse and the effectiveness of programs.

He said it’s an area that needs more research to have a definitive answer, but all the evidence to date is that it’s not happening. Surveys of the homeless population just don’t show a huge increase in the numbers of people moving here from other states. Most homeless people in Colorado lived here before they became homeless.

Here’s a transcript of our conversation, lightly edited for length and clarity:

There seems to be this widespread idea that legal cannabis is attracting people to the city. What do you know about that, and how do you know it?

There are a number of sources of information. I’ve talked to a number of directors of service agencies who say they’ve seen a rise in the number of people seeking services. They indicate there is some increase in the number of people who are there because of cannabis. However, the best data we have — and it’s frankly not great data — it comes from something called the annual Point-in-Time survey … There’s a question on the Point-in-Time survey: Where is the last permanent housing place that you lived? Based on that question, we can look at numbers of folks who are now in the metro area but consider a location outside of Colorado the last place that they lived. Those data, imperfect though they may be, suggest there has not been a substantial increase in the people coming from out of state.

So, independent of the reason people might come here, we haven’t seen the number of people moving here from other states go up?

Not significantly. We have seen an average of 100,000 people a year coming into the state. That clearly has fueled increases in the numbers of people experiencing homelessness. We don’t think the numbers of people coming for marijuana has increased substantially.

Now, one of the things that may be happening as people move here from other parts of the country is housing prices go up, which has a negative effect at the low end of the ladder, which contributes to homelessness. We don’t see any evidence that large numbers of people are showing up to smoke pot.

Why is that perception so widespread?

It’s an easy answer. There is no doubt that there is an increase in the numbers of homeless, not a large increase, but some increase over the last several years, and it tends to coincide with the 2012 ballot decision and 2014 actual legalization. It becomes an easy target. The unfortunate thing is what it does is reinforce a negative stereotype that all people experiencing homelessness are stoners, which is simply not true.

The Point-in-Time survey asks people what the reason they became homeless is and addiction to substances is pretty low in the list. It’s losing jobs, it’s the cost of housing and it’s family break-up. Things like that. Mental illness and substance abuse is pretty low down on the list. And that’s both in the city and across the metro region.

There is this notion that people become homeless because they are drunks, druggies, lazy, crazy, bad choices. But there are a lot more people who are housed who are drunks, who are druggies, who have mental illness, and who among us has not made a bad choice?

— Don Burnes

What are some of the limitations in that Point-in-Time survey?

How long do you have? Enumerating this population is probably the most difficult enumeration you can do. Lots of folks don’t want to be counted. Lots of folks will not fill out surveys. Lots of folks want to be hidden. …One of the problems is it has to be done at a certain time and you have to get lots of volunteers, and that is difficult.

But it’s the best data we have.

And what percentage of the homeless population comes from out-of-state?

It’s somewhere between 12 and 16 percent in any year come from out-of-state. There are lots of reasons to come to Colorado. In 2016, Denver was considered the fastest growing city in the country. Marijuana was not listed as one of the reasons. You talk about the mountains, you talk about winter sports, you talk about summer sports, you talk about a millennial magnet. You talk about lots to do in the city.

We did a survey of people sleeping in camp sites on Clear Creek in Aurora. We talked to one guy who was here with his wife from Arkansas. We asked him why he moved here, and he said, “Look at the mountains. It sure beats Arkansas.” He did not talk about coming for pot.

(Later in the conversation, Burnes had another observation about legal marijuana.)

Legal recreational marijuana is not particularly cheap, and there are other drugs that are cheaper and more readily available if you know the right people. It’s not just pot. We know that heroin, that use of various opioids, including prescription drugs, has skyrocketed in recent years. Maybe we should be paying more attention to that.

Amanda Berry (left) watches as city workers “sweep” a homeless encampments at Denargo and Delgany Streets where she was staying for two months, Jan. 26, 2016. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

What would it take to get a better handle on this?

We would have to do a much more in-depth study. People are not going to admit initially, ‘Oh yeah, I came here to smoke pot,’ but my guess is that in an extensive interview with the appropriate prompts, you could get at that. But that’s costly.

The best data we have now is simply: Have you come from another state?

(Note: The Point-in-Time survey occurs in January and wouldn’t count people who arrive in the summer as part of the traveler circuit or people who come for events and festivals and hang around for a few months.)

What are the policy implications of this belief? Does that change the types of policies that we have? Does it change support for those policies? Does it matter if we get a good answer?

Regardless of why people come here, the real policy question is: How do we end homelessness? And that’s a very different question. The cost of housing is skyrocketing. Right now, in Denver, it takes almost an hourly wage of $24 an hour to afford a modest 2-bedroom housing unit. That’s almost three times the minimum wage. … We are way behind on housing. And the answer does not include housing alone. For some folks it includes services.

What the mayor and City Council did in the fall in terms of the local housing trust fund, that’s fine. I applaud that. But a year or so ago, the regional director of Housing and Urban Development said that in this metro area, we have a deficit of about 25,000 housing units for people who are seriously housing challenged or who are experiencing homelessness. Creating 6,000 units over 10 years is a little short of 25,000.

(Note: Only a portion of the 6,000 units the city will create or preserve will go to the very poor or the homeless. The affordable housing fund will also be used for so-called “workforce” housing for people who might be considered middle class in less expensive cities.)

Gov. John Hickenlooper asked that marijuana tax money be used to fund housing for the homeless. One of the justifications he gave was that marijuana is contributing to homelessness. If it ends up generating tax money for housing, is it okay if people have this misconception?

Burnes gave a deep sigh at this question.

I strongly applaud the governor for trying to put money into affordable housing. Unfortunately I think the misperception tends to reinforce negative stereotypes. More than anything, I feel strongly that if we really are going to adequately address the problem, we need to change public attitudes about homeless. I love the money coming in, but I really hope we can educate people to the realization that the negative stereotypes and misconceptions really are wrong. The vast majority of homeless people are not the folks you see on the streets. They represent only 15, 20 percent. Most of the folks are invisible so we don’t see them, but their issues are just as serious as the street folks. So I have very mixed reactions to your question.

Is there anything else people should know?

The other thing that all this raises is: Why do people become homeless? There is this notion that people become homeless because they are drunks, druggies, lazy, crazy, bad choices. But there are a lot more people who are housed who are drunks, who are druggies, who have mental illness, and who among us has not made a bad choice? The real issue is economic and systemic. I cannot tell you how strongly I feel about that.

Apartments for rent in Washington Park West. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
Maat Khan behind the counter at Simply Pure. (Chloe Aiello/Denverite)
Looks medicinal to me. Look medicinal to you? (Chloe Aiello/Denverite)
Man smoking marijuana. (Rafael Castillo/Flickr)

Are you ready to read about two more Denver restaurant picks that beg your attention? You already know that the capital city of Colorado has thousands of restaurants, and we have virtually visited quite a few. I want to grab two really unique picks for you so that you find a reason to make sure you visit them. Let’s see what we’ve got in the form of two more top restaurants in Denver, Colorado.

Piatti Denver is one of my two picks, and it is because of how good the pizza looks. There are a ton of pizza places in Denver, but this one is certainly a good one. It is located on Saint Paul Street, and you can enjoy other delicious Italian eats there, too. One reviewer describes the food as fresh and traditional. Need I say more?

Now let’s look at the other Denver restaurant I have picked out for you. It is called Tocabe, and it is located on the corner of 44th and Lowell. Have you ever tried Native American cuisine? You are talking about Indian tacos, fry bread, bison ribs and much more. What is fry bread? Reviewers say that you need to try it, and evidently the nachos are great, too.

The first Denver restaurant was great, but that second one really has my attention. It’s not every day that you get to eat at a restaurant that serves up Native American cuisine. It seems like you are certainly in for a treat if you visit Tocabe. As a matter of fact, I think that is my favorite Denver restaurant yet, would you agree? Of course, you can only confirm that if you are willing to go give it a try. Make sure you don’t forget about Piatti Denver though because that pizza sure looked delicious.

Copyright 2017 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

DENVER– One Colorado family is sharing their hard journey with hopes it could save another child’s life.

A newborn going into heart failure at just two weeks old is a horrifying thought for any parent.

That was more than a thought for Juniper Gelrod’s parents as she had to be connected to a Berlin heart machine just days after she was born.

“It was a pump that actually went into her heart, and came out of her stomach and was plugged into a 200 pound driver that pumped her heart for her,” explained Juniper’s mom Joni Schrantz.

Juniper lived connected to the machine with 50/50 odds of surviving as she waited for a new heart.

As a way of dealing with the stress and pressure of the ordeal Juniper’s photographer mom picked up her camera and posted pictures to social media.

“Just to sort of allow others to wait with us and see what it’s like to wait for an organ,” said Schrantz.

After 6 months of waiting as another family’s loss meant life for Juniper.

“It’s a very humbling experience to be waiting for something like that so that your child can live. There’s a lot guilt associated with it,” said Schrantz.

Juniper’s story is not only connecting her family to others going through the same thing, but it’s grown into something more.

Schrantz was asked to curate a National Geographic project inspired by journeys like Juniper’s, and it’s filled with photos that represent powerful life changing moments.

It’s a part of National Geographic’s 800,000 member online community of photographers called Your Shot.

“We’ve learned a lot of making the best of things and trying to stay optimistic and showing her what to appreciate about life,” said Schrantz.

The project was highlighted during April for Organ Donation Month, and in that time more than 700 people have signed up for the organ donation registry through the project.

Now Juniper is three years old doing great today and has no heart problems, but she does have to take medication and get frequent checkups.

Her mom hopes Juniper’s story will inspire you to sign up for organ donation because 1 life can save 8 others.

You can sign up online by visiting Donate Life Colorado’s website.

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High resolution NAM model simulated radar late Friday night in Colorado and western Kansas. (PivotalWeather.com)

Weather is often a tale of contrasts. While record-challenging heat develops in the eastern U.S., expect temperatures to plunge and snowflakes to fly in the Rocky Mountains.

The National Weather Service has posted a winter storm warning for Denver, and it is predicting 6 to 12 inches of snow late Friday into Saturday. But it conceded its confidence in the accumulation forecast is “moderate at best.”

It predicts the heaviest snowfall amounts on Denver’s south side.

Snow forecast in Colorado. (National Weather Service)

Other outlets published more conservative snowfall forecasts.

AccuWeather is forecasting just 1 to 3 inches for Denver. And the website Weather5280.com seemed skeptical that the amounts would be as high as forecast by the Weather Service. “We’re going with a general 2-6 inches for Denver,” it said. “[T]he Bust Index is high. It’s late April, and there are lot of moving parts here.”

If snowfall somehow exceeds six inches in Denver, this storm would rank among the biggest snow producers so deep into spring. Only a dozen storms in recorded history have produced more than six inches April 28 or later in the Mile High City:

Here is Top 15 one-day snow for Denver Apr 28 or later; if all accumulation is tomorrow, high end of NWS 4-6″ fcst range approaches Top 10 pic.twitter.com/QDvmDiqbjx

— MDA Weather Services (@MDA_Weather) April 28, 2017

With the snow coming so late in the season and trees starting to leaf, the Weather Service said its weight could cause tree limbs to snap and scattered power outages.

Precipitation is forecast to move into Denver on Friday evening, possibly starting as rain or a rain-snow mix. But as colder air arrives, precipitation is expected to turn to all snow. For a time this evening and overnight, the snow could fall heavily.

The snow is predicted to end Saturday morning. “We don’t think there will be much snow in Denver after about noon Saturday,” the Weather Service said.

The highest snow totals are expected in the high-elevation peaks west and southwest of Denver, where 1 to 2 feet could fall.

The website SnowBrains says four Colorado ski resorts, still open, will be able to cash in on the fresh powder this weekend: Arapahoe Basin, Loveland Ski Area, Winter Park and Purgatory.

The snowstorm is the result of a deep area of low pressure and cold air at high altitudes ejecting from the Southwest into the Plains.

GFS model simulation of deep area of low pressure at high altitudes ejecting from the Southwest into the Plains Saturday. (WeatherBell.com)

It will eventually draw a tremendous amount of moisture out of the Gulf of Mexico and may produce a deluge from Oklahoma to Ohio over the weekend.

Copyright 2017 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

DENVER – It’s not exactly a secret, but Colorado has some of the nation’s best high schools.

That was reinforced again Tuesday, when 15 Colorado high schools earned gold medals in the just-released 2017 U.S. News and World Report’s “Best High Schools in America” report, and two of them ended up in the top 100 in the country.

Lafayette’s Peak to Peak Charter School earned the top ranking for Colorado and came in at No. 34 nationally. Its 100 percent graduation rate, students’ college readiness, and the extensive Advanced Placement program at the school were cited as reason for its high marks.

Two Denver Public Schools high schools came in second and third for Colorado: DSST: Stapleton High School is No. 2 in the state and No. 97 nationally; and KIPP Denver Collegiate High School was No. 3 in the state at No. 123 nationally.

Also earning gold medals in the ranking – the highest award – were:

Liberty Common Charter School in Fort Collins D’Evelyn Junior/Senior High School in Jefferson County The Vanguard School in Colorado Springs Twin Peaks Charter Academy in Longmont Ridgeview Classical Charter Schools in Fort Collins Boulder High School in Boulder Crested Butte Community School in Crested Butte Evergreen High School in Evergreen The Denver Center for International Studies in Denver DSST: Green Valley Ranch High School in Denver The Denver School of the Arts in Denver The Classical Academy High School in Colorado Springs

Thirty-two Colorado schools earned silver medals, and 37 schools earned bronze medals in the report. Eight DPS schools were named in the top-50 Colorado high schools on the list.

“We have amazing students and families. Their partnership with our educators throughout the district is a big reason why our kids continue to thrive,” said DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg. “I am proud of the work that our teams put in every day to ensure that all of our kids graduate ready for college and career.”

For the full report on Colorado schools, click here, or stay tuned to Denver7 Wednesday for more.

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Smog and haze obscure the Denver skyline as traffic moves north on I 25 near Thorton Parkway.

Ozone pollution has improved in both Denver and Fort Collins, but both cities are still among the 15 worst in the nation, the American Lung Association said.

The association’s 2017 clean air report released late Tuesday said Denver had the 11th-worst ozone levels and Fort Collins had the 15th-worst.

Last year, Denver was eighth and Fort Collins 10th.

Ozone can be harmful to people with respiratory problems and other vulnerable groups, including children and the elderly. People who are active outdoors can also suffer.

The report gave 12 Colorado counties a grade of D or F for the number of high ozone days. Ten of those counties are on the Front Range or in nearby foothills.

Denver and the northern Front Range have long struggled to meet federal ozone standards.

The American Lung Association said Colorado’s ozone problem has multiple causes, including vehicle exhaust, the oil and gas industry, trees, coal-burning power plants and weather conditions. Some of Colorado’s ozone drifts in from out of state.

Nationwide, ozone levels and year-round particle pollution have both declined since the association’s 2016 report, but short-term spikes in particulate pollution increased, the group said.

Denver’s short-term particulate pollution also worsened, the report said.

Colorado air quality officials said they were still reviewing the report but raised questions about some of the American Lung Association’s methods.

The report used data from 2013 to 2015 gathered from federal, tribal, state and county agencies. The association said that was the most recent verified data available.

Residents of most U.S. cities can breathe easier than people in some other parts of the world. Last August, Mexico City issued an alert after ozone levels hit more than 150 percent of acceptable levels. In December, Beijing issued a warning when particulate pollution reached more than 15 times the safe level.

Dawn Mullally, director of air quality and transportation for the American Lung Association in Colorado, said Denver has made great strides over several decades.

“We’ve come a long way since the smoggy days of the 1970s,” she said.

Mullally said regulations under the federal Clean Air Act shouldn’t be relaxed.

“This is the air we breathe. We must protect it,” she said.

I-70 Reimagined

We’ve reached an important crossroads regarding the future of Colorado highway transportation. Diverging paths lead to different destinations.

Our elected leaders urge widening I-70, creating a huge traffic canyon gouged into the low-income North Denver ethnic minority communities of Globeville, Elyria, and Swansea. To protect this planned 40-foot-deep, the 23-lane-equivalent section of I-70 from flooding, CDOT has paid the city of Denver millions for the ‘Platte-to-Park Hill’ drainage project.

The project would repurpose historic City Park Golf Course as a drainage sump; dig a deep, wide concrete-lined culvert through the middle of the historic (low-income, minority) Cole neighborhood; and dump all the accumulated, polluted runoff through a massively expanded stormwater outfall at Globeville Landing into the Platte River, wiping out the neighborhood’s only riverside park.

The project creates new catastrophic flooding potential in the Globeville neighborhood. Denver is now excavating a highly toxic Superfund site just upstream from where Adams County draws some drinking water. Flooding could wash lead, arsenic, and cadmium from the highly toxic site into the Platte River.

Perhaps the most serious health risks come not from below, but from above. In the mid-20th century, Denver and CDOT built urban freeways through the heart of low-income ethnic minority inner city neighborhoods instead of routing them around city peripheries, as intended in the original Federal Highway Act. In transportation policy circles, this is referred to as following the geographic course of political least resistance.

This is exactly what happened in North Denver. The environmental health effects have been devastating. For the last half-century, these neighborhoods have suffered the worst urban air pollution in the country. As assessed by Denver’s own Department of Environmental Health, childhood asthma rates are 40% above all other Denver neighborhoods, and rates of congestive heart disease are 70% higher. Both life-shortening pathologies are directly linked to highway traffic exhaust. Now Denver and CDOT plan to make conditions worse by doubling the volume of I-70 traffic through these neighborhoods.

Beyond the extensive environmental damage and human health harm, this proposed path also raises serious questions of regional and fiscal equity throughout the state of Colorado. Half of the funding CDOT has set aside for bridge maintenance and repair throughout our state’s compromised rural highway infrastructure is now slated for Central 70.

Further—even with the federal highway construction funds promised if the I-70 project is not found to be in violation of the federal Clean Air Act—CDOT doesn’t have enough funding to complete the project. Colorado taxpayers may soon be asked to pay for all the long-overdue highway improvement projects on CDOT’s wish list.

The list will have many projects around the state that deserve public support; however, Central 70 is not deserving. Former Denver City Auditor Dennis Gallagher calls it a “billion-dollar boondoggle.” CDOT could achieve the same regional surface transportation objectives with far less funding, far less environmental damage, and far less harm to the health of nearby residents if it simply chose the beltway bypass expansion option: I-76/I-270. CDOT already owns the right-of-way, far fewer people would be displaced, and there’d be far less environmental health harm. Denver could remove the I-70 viaduct and replace it with a beautiful parkway.

Many governments have recognized as gross environmental injustices 1960s-era urban freeways; they’re ripping them out and healing the afflicted neighborhoods. That is what we propose to do here. We should heal social and architectural wounds as has been done in San Francisco, Seattle, and many other cities globally.

The rest of Colorado shouldn’t have to pay for the billion-dollar boondoggle, and North Denver residents shouldn’t have to continue to breathe the country’s most toxic air. Surface transportation should promote greener, healthier neighborhoods, and should more fairly and cost-effectively expend precious public funds.

Lloyd Burton recently retired as Professor and Founding Director of the program concentration in Environmental Policy, Management, and Law at the School of Public Affairs, University of Colorado – Denver. He is a member of EPA’s Citizens’ Advisory Group regarding the Superfund risks written about in this piece and serves on the Transportation Committee of the Colorado Sierra Club.

With contributions by Joe Boven On January 19 The Federal Highway Administration approved the Central 70 project. The Record of Decision allows the Colorado Department of Transportation to begin construction of the new highway in 2018. Many activists and concerned citizens are on a quest for justice with plans to sue CDOT, the EPA and … Continue reading


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