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East Rail Line Progress – 40th/York Realignment and UPRR Construction

By Robert Wilson

Today’s update will take us along 40th Avenue and just east of York and Josephine Streets. Construction of various infrastructure improvements that will occur along the rail corridor have begun. As mentioned in an earlier blog post, crews will close 40th Avenue between Blake and York Streets for up to 18 months to work on drainage infrastructure as well as reconstruct the road in concrete with a sidewalk on the south side with the commuter rail tracks to the north. Crews have officially closed 40th Avenue and have quickly moved to start ripping up the street.

  

  

For those of you who drive 40th Avenue regularly, a good detour would be 37th Avenue (watch for lots of stop signs and cops ensuring full stops) or Bruce Randolph Avenue. Those who ride the Route 44 bus and others along 40th Avenue, those buses will be using 37th as their detour.

  

The photo below was taken at York Street and 40th Avenue looking north and east showing the progress made in this area. The buildings to the east of York (both north and south of 40th) have been demolished and the new northbound Josephine Street is being constructed. The new alignment will remove the funky and inefficient intersection that was the old 40th/York/Josephine intersection.

To the west of York Street at 41st Street, the new entrance to the Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR) yard is progressing quickly. While these improvements may seem unrelated to the commuter line construction, they are important because they will allow the area’s fright, industrial, and general auto traffic to operate with minimal disturbances once the East Rail Line construction is underway. UPRR required a new entrance to their yard because once the commuter rail is constructed, UPRR’s current access points along 40th Street on the south side of their site will be permanently blocked by the train. This makes more sense operationally for UPRR and is much better for residents of the Cole neighborhood – a true win-win for both.

The next photo is taken near the train tracks and Columbine Street where the commuter rail will curve around the west and north sides of the existing AT&T building at 40th and Columbine Streets. After the commuter rail passes Josephine Street it will travel parallel to the existing UPRR tracks. In order for both RTD and UPRR to operate safely in the same right-of-way, the commuter rail and the freight tracks have to be at least 50 feet apart. Because of this, wide swaths of UPRR freight tracks are currently being “pushed” slightly north (within the same right-of-way) to allow for as much spacing as possible. This work is occurring along most of the corridor between York Street and Airport Boulevard. On the north side of this photo (right in the picture above, left below), we can see the new tracks under construction.

 

Next, we will take a look at construction approaching the 40th/Colorado Station. On a (somewhat) unrelated note, keep in mind that light rail service north of the I-25/Broadway Station will be temporarily out of service both December 8 and 9. There will be limited service along the Welton Corridor. Click here for more information.

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7 Comments

  1. mckillio says:

    Thanks for the excellent update, Ryan. Do you feel that the East line will open well ahead of schedule? It certainly seems like it might.

  2. Ryan Mulligan says:

    Robert’s owed the credit – he’s done a great job reporting back. I’ve just added a few pictures here and there and posted his write ups.

    As for the schedule, I’d still expect a 2016 opening. That being said, if we have a few more (nonexistent) winters, that could certainly change. I’d put my money on a 2016 opening, as scheduled.

  3. John Rto says:

    How is it more safe to have trains 50 feet apart instead of 25, or 10? Isn’t that why they’re on tracks, for Pete’s sake? How much more does it cost to buy up all that ROW considering the trains are on fixed routes?

    • Ted says:

      I have been under the understanding that this is the whole reason the cost of the Fastracks program has skyrocketed. The R.R. companies have begun to insist that they not share ROW with light-rail or commuter-rail trains due to potential liabilities (remember that incident on the southwest light-rail corridor a couple years ago when the train jumped it’s track and ended up in the freight ROW?). This has become a major ROW acquisition problem if you ask me for the future of rail in the United States, and a major reason why in the future, we need R.R. ROWs to be under public ownership the same as the streets and roads in our country.

    • Kio says:

      John, I have been wondering the exact same thing! 50 feet seems like an enormous distance requirement. Like you say, they are already on tracks… Doesn’t that already make it safer than say, driving in your car on Hwy 93, when only a few inches of paint are separating you from a potential head-on collision?

      Yes, Ted, I believe you are correct. In the past, the RR companies have cooperated with public transit authorities, but apparently now the rules have changed. I wonder why RR companies ever had any incentive to cooperate with public transit? Do you know if laws have changed? Or, is it really just this new fear of liability?

  4. Ted says:

    I don’t know the exact reason, somebody more knowledgeable than me would need to chime in. The good news is that urban land acquisition seems to be the most expensive/difficult, and heavy-rail electric commuter lines tend to be compatible with more suped-up high speed train technologies. California is currently having to upgrade the commuter systems in both L.A. and S.F. to electric in anticipation of the arrival of high speed trains. At least if such trains ever do make it to Denver, we will have fully electrified heavy rail ROWs under PUBLIC OWNERSHIP ready to go all the way into our city center.

  5. Robert says:

    Ryan, thanks for the notice and thanks everyone else for the comments! I hope to be more active on the discussions the more first hand knowledge I obtain while working in this area. Please post your questions or concerns and I will be sure to include more information about that topic in the next post.

    As for everyone’s question: yes the new freight tracks are a huge part of this project’s total cost! I will try to dig up some more info about the 50′ requirement and what other rail lines have used. The bottom line is the right of way is the same size as before so separating the tracks as far as the existing right of allows is a good idea; at least for safety and opperations reasons.