The Interstate 70 expansion’s main contractor this week asked the city of Denver to extend its authorization to exceed nighttime noise limits for more than three years.
Kiewit Infrastructure Co. originally had sought an overnight noise variance lasting through December 2022, before the $1.2 billion project broke ground last summer. But during an early September hearing that ended after midnight, the Denver Board of Public Health and Environment balked — instead granting a renewable one-year variance.
The move was intended to hold Kiewit accountable to its promises if overnight construction and bridge demolition ended up disturbing nearby residents’ lives.
In its new filing Monday, Kiewit renewed its request for the extended term before the first year is up.
“From our perspective, we haven’t had issues the past year, and we hope we proved that we did what we said we were going to do,” said Matt Sanman, a Kiewit project spokesman. “We’re being thoughtful and working really hard to minimize those project impacts.”
Kiewit is armed with city monitoring that has shown few noise-related hiccups. And a city report reviewed by The Denver Post shows just a smattering of noise complaints, most of them resulting from unrelated public projects or from activity that didn’t violate the city’s conditions.
Community groups were digesting Kiewit’s request Thursday after the public health department released it. During the September hearing, dozens of people had pushed for more restrictions or even outright denial of the original variance.
Joel Minor, an attorney for Earthjustice, an environmental law firm that aided those groups last summer, noted that some of the most significant overnight activities — including demolition of the 1.8-mile I-70 viaduct through Elyria-Swansea — haven’t happened yet. The viaduct is set to come down next year, after all six lanes are shifted into a below-grade trench now being dug adjacent to it.
“Noise certainly remains a concern,” Minor said, but the early going has been smooth. “Some of the mitigation that Kiewit is required to do under the current terms, as well as mitigation that is being done without being required, has been somewhat effective.”
Kiewit and the Colorado Department of Transportation have said they expect substantial completion of the 10-mile corridor by mid-2022, but the noise variance request extends later in case of delays. The project includes the rebuilding of major portions of I-70 and the addition of a tolled express lane in each direction between Interstate 25 and Chambers Road in Aurora.
In its new request, Kiewit proposes keeping nearly the same conditions set by city officials last year, including offering hotel vouchers to affected residents on the noisiest nights.
The filing submitted by its lawyers says the Department of Public Health and Environment “has concurred” on proposed changes, but a city official says that’s not the case.
“We’ve been in close touch with them, throughout the project,” said Danica Lee, the department’s director of public health investigations. “(But) we have not made any clear indication to them — we have to review the petition, we have to double-check that they didn’t make any changes that they didn’t disclose to us, and we’re waiting to see if we get public comments and input.”