Interstate-70 expansion project home-repair program aims to protect residents gas vs diesel rv

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That recurring soundtrack in the Elyria-Swansea neighborhood has intruded into Lovato’s home on Josephine Street since she and her late husband bought it 37 years ago. So close to the I-70 viaduct, that’s not the only thing that finds its way inside.

For that, Lovato can thank new insulation and nine new storm windows that were installed at no cost to her as part of a $3.8 million joint mitigation program for the upcoming I-70 expansion project, paid for by the Colorado Department of Transportation and the city.

The initiative, dubbed the Adelante Project, is managed by the nonprofit group Energy Outreach Colorado and several partner groups. It’s targeting 282 homes that lie within a block of the 1.8-mile viaduct. Those households are eligible for several types of upgrades, including home repairs and replacement window air conditioners and other appliances, that will come even more in handy this summer.

The most intensive work will occur down the street from Lovato. In a multistage operation, crews will replace the 54-year-old viaduct from Brighton to Colorado Boulevard with a wider span that’s sunken below ground level, into an open trench. A few blocks near Swansea Elementary will be topped by a 4-acre parkland cover.

More than 65 percent of the program’s work orders are complete, program managers say, as costs per home have ranging wildly — from $1,000 to as much as $20,000. To deal with higher energy bills once air conditioners kick on, residents will get $25 monthly energy bill credits.

“This is really preserving these homes as affordable,” said Jennifer Gremmert, Energy Outreach Colorado’s executive director. “If we hadn’t been able to get in there and do this, I don’t know what the outcomes would have been.” City kicked in extra money for program

CDOT long had planned a $2.3 million home-improvement program for Elyria-Swansea homes near I-70. In early October, the Denver City Council — after some members called CDOT’s plans inadequate — approved $1.45 million in supplementary city money for additional offerings, including the assessments, plus an agreement with CDOT in which the city took responsibility for the program’s oversight.

Lovato’s family has kept her 114-year-old house in decent repair. She appreciated the work done so far, including the installation of several energy-efficient LED light bulbs and two new smoke detectors — as well as the new windows that keep the outside air from getting in.

A few blocks east on Clayton Street, Deborah Florez moved into a ranch-style home four years ago with her family, including some adult children. She knew the highway project was coming, she said, but the home’s value and size were too good to pass up.

On a recent morning, Energy Outreach Colorado’s Luke Ilderton and Ralph Yatsko checked new attic insulation and vent pipe sealing. They updated Florez on coming weatherization work, a replacement for her broken front door and a new refrigerator.

Lovato, for her part, is conflicted about the I-70 project. Her 10-year-old grandson has asthma and won’t play outside when he visits, she said, because he can feel the mix of highway and industrial pollutants fill his lungs. Related Articles

Drew Dutcher, a neighborhood activist who has fought the I-70 project over health concerns, says he’s appreciated the work done at his house on High Street. But he has misgivings, including that the program stops a block from the highway. He thinks residents within two blocks should receive help.

“When you go outside, you’re exposed,” said Dutcher, the president of the Elyria and Swansea Neighborhood Association. “I want to have a garden — it’s one of the things I like to do. If I want to have an outdoor garden this summer, I will be exposed to pollution — and that’s how it will be for the next four years.”

“When you tighten up a home and reduce the amount of exterior air infiltrating into the home, then you’re going to increase the levels of any type of indoor pollutants or dangerous situations,” Ilderton said. “We wanted to make sure our improvements didn’t have any unintended consequences.”