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Traffic flows along Coast Highway 101 through San Diego Traffic flows along Coast Highway 101 through San Diego's North County beach town of Encinitas, California March 31, 2014. REUTERS/Mike Blake  

Denver auditor calls $1.8 billion highway expansion plans ‘wasteful’

The Denver city auditor is taking aim at a proposed expansion of Interstate 70 to 10 lanes through the city, calling it a “wasteful expenditure” that’s not in anyone’s best interests.

The $1.8 billion project will expand the highway to five lanes in each direction by adding managed toll lanes and it’s scheduled to be heard by the Denver City Council on Monday. The project already has the Colorado Department of Transportation’s stamp of approval and the city council is poised to support it as well, according to the Denver Post.

But auditor Dennis Gallagher, whose office keeps track of how Denver spends its money, said in a strongly-worded letter to CDOT chief Don Hunt that the project will continue treating people who live near the highway as “second-class citizens.”

“The residents of these neighborhoods were treated as second class citizens when I-70 was originally routed through their neighborhoods,” he wrote. “[T]heir hopes and dreams were ignored; their needs took a back seat to those who were only passing through Denver. That process cannot occur again.”

“Widening a highway simply to allow for privately-managed toll lanes means wrecking and uprooting the homes of at least 50 families, and again that treats them as second class citizens,” he wrote.

Gallagher argued that the project is unneeded as people “move away from a reliance on cars and trucks for transportation” and that it may be obsolete by the time it’s finished.

He supports an alternative plan that would re-route the highway along another freeway spur to the north, allowing the neighborhoods it currently bisects to reunite. But the Post reported that the alternative plan would cost twice as much.

Still, Gallagher vowed in his letter to strenuously oppose the expansion plan as its currently drafted.

“As you can tell, I feel very strongly about this,” he wrote, “and I encourage you to take my concerns to heart as I will fight as resolutely as I can to oppose a freeway this size that will further decimate neighborhoods for which I have a long-standing allegiance and affection and solidarity.”

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