Project to reconnect Globeville and Elyria-Swansea gets $35.4M boost

DENVER (KDVR) — A $35.4 million U.S. Department of Transportation grant is paving the way to connect the Globeville and Elyria-Swansea neighborhoods.

According to the city, the funding will be used to build infrastructure to connect the two neighborhoods through a multimodal bridge over the South Platte River and a pedestrian bridge over railroad tracks. Denver Mayor Mike Johnston said these neighborhoods are historically underserved areas of Denver.

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“This direct investment in the Globeville and Elyria-Swansea communities will help keep neighbors connected and ensure the community remains vibrant for years to come,” Johnston said in a statement. “For too long, this community has been underfunded and underserved, and this new project is part of my commitment to ensure every Denver neighborhood can thrive.”

The project in total is projected to cost $67.9 million, according to documents filed with Department of Transportation.

The project will be closely coordinated with the National Western Center, located near the border of the two neighborhoods. The grant-funded project will “enhance walkability and create a healthier, more vibrant, and better-connected community,” according to a release from the mayor’s office.

The project aims to create better access to critical services for residents, like childcare, schools and fresh groceries. It will also involve environmental remediation by removing methane and reducing greenhouse gas emissions in “one of the country’s most polluted zip codes,” according to the release.

Overall, the project has four elements:

  • A new multimodal bridge with a connective greenway corridor

  • A new pedestrian bridge over the BNSF, Denver Rock Island Railroad and RTD tracks connecting to RTD’s Brighton Boulevard transit station

  • Construction of at-grade railroad crossing safety improvements on National Western Drive

  • Reclamation of land for neighborhood uses

This will allow the residents of both neighborhoods to have local road access through the area, rather than having to rely solely on Interstate 70.

“Multiple planning studies have come together and determined re-connecting the GES neighborhoods will create positive proportional impacts to remedy past injustices,” the Department of Transportation filing said.

A new park built over I-70 in Elyria-Swansea
A new park built over I-70 in Elyria-Swansea

Globeville, Elyria-Swansea are historically disadvantaged

The project description further discusses how Globeville has historically been an immigrant neighborhood, originally mostly Eastern Europeans, drawn to the emerging smelting industry on the South Platte River.

After that, Latino and African American communities also flocked to the neighborhoods. The project description noted that the communities would likely not exist without the railroad and river, but it also blocks the neighborhoods from the larger Denver community.

“This isolation was further exacerbated when I-25 and I-70 were constructed, bisecting the neighborhoods,” the project description states.

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Many local and federal representatives celebrated the grant funding.

“The Reconnecting Globeville and Elyria-Swansea Project will help Denver build the Bettie Cram Drive Bridge and increase access to public transit, outdoor recreation, and economic opportunity for some of Denver’s most underserved neighborhoods,” U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet said in a release. “These three neighborhoods have historically lacked the support and access to resources they need to thrive, and I’m grateful that this funding will help them grow while preserving local culture.”

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U.S. Sen. John Hickenlooper echoed Bennet’s sentiments and noted the community’s longstanding issues.

“When Colorado built the I-70 corridor, Globeville and Elyria-Swansea – diverse, working-class neighborhoods – were cut off from one another and from central Denver,” Hickenlooper said in the release. “This investment from our Inflation Reduction Act will right this wrong and reconnect them both.”

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