The preferred plan for Interstate 70 through North Denver would replace the elevated deck with a highway below ground level.

DALLAS - The Colorado Department of Transportation will seek private investment for a $1.8 billion redevelopment of Interstate 70 where it cuts through neighborhoods north of downtown Denver.

Much of the 12-mile section of freeway is elevated. Denver officials support a plan to sink the roadway below ground level to reduce a visual barrier in the lower income section of the city that includes large industrial plants.

Denver is also planning to redevelop the National Western Stock Show complex, which is divided by the I-70 viaduct. That bond-funded project is estimated to cost $856 million.

At a Feb. 19 workshop session, the Colorado Transportation Commission agreed to seek a private partner to share in the cost of the project.

"CDOT will be able to deliver this project beyond what it could do with its limited funds by partnering with the private sector for the construction, operation and maintenance responsibilities," Transportation Commissioner Chairman Ed Peterson said.

The viaduct, built in the early 1960s, is nearing the end of its service life, according to CDOT. One part of the replacement plan would include an 800-foot section of covered freeway upon which a park or open space could be built.

CDOT and the Federal Highway Administration expect to issue a record of decision for the freeway redevelopment this year, with construction likely to start in 2016, officials said.

The full scope of the preliminarily identified preferred alternative has a construction cost of approximately $1.8 billion, CDOT said in a report.

I-70 East would be the costliest project in CDOT's history, nearly $400 million larger than the highway portion of Interstate 25 T-Rex redevelopment south of Denver.

"CDOT's goal is to deliver congestion relief and infrastructure safety to I-70 East while protecting the taxpayers and traveling public in an unpredictable funding future," CDOT's report said.

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