New Take on Local Labor

July 7, 2017
Colorado's Central 70 expansion project will build careers as well as improve the state's highways

Colorado's I-70 expansion project that will run through north Denver will be adjacent to 15 neighborhoods, and CDOT is including a clause in the project's contract requiring 20 percent of the $1.2 billion project's workforce must be residents of those neighborhoods. An estimated 350 workers will be drawn from the area and provided with training to build the Central 70 project now and a good career as time goes on.

Using a $400,000 federal grant received last year, CDOT will partner with Gary Community Investments (GCI) to provide more than $1 million for training and support programs, including child care so residents can take advantage of the training opportunities and jobs.  Last year the U.S. Department of Transportation gave CDOT – one of only nine other transportation agencies nationwide – permission to pilot a local-hire program for Central 70.

"GCI takes a two-generation approach to investing that includes helping low-income families increase their financial security," says Dave Younggren, President & CEO of GCI. "We are proud to partner with CCD, CDOT and others who are working hard to ensure that residents living along the I-70 corridor benefit from the economic development happening around them. By providing access to job training and support services, this program will help local families increase their earning potential, which will positively impact their children's education, health and future economic outcomes."

The Central 70 career training and resource center, which opened earlier this week, will offer six courses on a flexible schedule and will host networking events and job fairs, CDOT says. The center has three work bays, four training rooms and a heavy equipment yard. The center will host job fairs, provide access to CDOT job listings, and as the Central 70 project evolves will carry information about jobs on the project.

The Community College of Denver, the Emily Griffith Technical College, the Colorado Contractors Association, and Associated General Contractors are also providing support.

“The Central 70 Project is by itself a major economic driver for the entire Denver metro region. CDOT wanted to also ensure that these economic and job opportunities were made available to local residents,” said Shailen Bhatt, CDOT’s executive director. “CDOT is one of only a few DOTs in the nation to implement local hiring and we are doing this not just by setting hiring goals but by actively reaching out to our partners to create a comprehensive support system that makes a career in construction accessible for everyone.”

Usually federally funded projects are prohibited from setting geographically based hiring goals. However, due to its massive size, the I-70 project was only one of nine in the country that got this type of grant.

CDOT is looking down the road to future Colorado construction. Bhatt said the training program will allow the department to give lifelong career opportunities to local communities and build a skilled workforce to support construction projects across the region..

Plans are to reconstruct a 10-mile stretch of I-70 East, add one new express lane in each direction, remove an old viaduct, lower the interstate between Brighton and Colorado boulevards, and place a 4-acre landscaped area that will be constructed over a portion of the lowered interstate.

The project is scheduled to start next year and a contractor will be selected later this summer.

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