City board considers nighttime construction noise request

The main contractor on the $1.2 billion expansion of Interstate 70 through northeast Denver received a limited green light early Friday to exceed noise limits for the next year during overnight construction work.

Faced by dozens of speakers who pushed for more restrictions on a noise variance request or even an outright denial, Kiewit Infrastructure Co. pressed its case to the city’s Board of Public Health and Environment. In a 3-2 vote after midnight, the board balked at Kiewit’s request for a variance from normal nighttime noise limits that would have lasted more than four years.

Instead, the board granted an initial 12-month duration for the variance — a move designed to hold the contractor accountable to its promises. Kiewit will have to return to the board to renew the variance.

The board also directed public health staff to develop a plan for more intensive noise monitoring in the neighborhoods and said it wants to receive regular reports on complaints.

The shorter term for the variance was among suggestions made by community groups that questioned the scope of Kiewit’s request.

Kiewit’s representatives argued that the erection of temporary sound walls and other measures it has agreed to take, including providing hotel vouchers to affected residents on the noisiest nights, would soften the impact of loud construction work.

And Kiewit said the loudest work, such as the demolition of large bridges, must happen overnight to keep I-70 open during daytime hours. The contractor is part of Kiewit-Meridiam Partners, which won a larger public-private partnership contract with the Colorado Department of Transportation for the project.

The appointed nine-member public health board was short-handed Thursday night, with two members recusing themselves over potential conflicts of interest, and two others absent. But its bylaws allow a majority of members in attendance to take action so long as the board has a five-member quorum, a public health spokeswoman said.

Voting no were chair Alisha Brown and member Genene Duran, who expressed concern about the amount of noise that neighbors of I-70 were being asked to withstand in coming years.

Other than the shorter duration for the variance, the board adopted numerous conditions recommended by city public health officials.

Much of the focus during the seven-hour hearing was on the most intensive construction zone, in Elyria-Swansea. That’s where the Central 70 project calls for replacing an aging I-70 viaduct between Brighton and Colorado boulevards with a freeway section that’s lowered into a trench, with part of that topped by a 4-acre parkland cover.

While the board received a handful of written comments in favor of granting Kiewit’s variance, speaker after speaker rose Thursday to voice disapproval. Opposition was a rare point of agreement between Councilman Albus Brooks, who represents the area, and Candi CdeBaca, a community activist who has filed to run for his seat next year.

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