By Robert Wilson
Progress along the East Rail Line has been slow and steady over the winter months. Some significant progress has been on a number of bridges (18 currently under construction). The majority of the work over the winter months, however, has been less noticeable utility relocation work and preliminary construction that will allow for a very busy spring and summer construction schedule on our line out to DIA.
Between Denver Union Station (DUS) and the the first stop (38/Blake) the final overhead catenary system (OCS) foundations have been installed while basic utility work is being completed. The ground here is graded, compacted, and nearly ready for construction of the station and track installation.
Crews have completed the girder placement for the 38th Avenue Bridge just north and east of the 38th/Blake Station site. Construction crews closed 38th Avenue over night in December to install the load baring girders and have since completed the abutment connections. Over the next few months, crews will continue working on the bridge while a a pedestrian bridge is designed just to the northeast prior to 2016 to connect the park-n-ride lot with the station platform. 38th Avenue will likely be closed a few more times before this bridge is completed. However, these closures usually occur at night so its impact to traffic should be minimal.
One road closure that has been the exception to that statement has been 40th Avenue, which is still closed between Walnut and Josephine Street and will be for the next year. Where the paved 40th Street was just a few months ago crews have excavated twenty feet down to install an upgraded fiber optic network, a new sanitary sewer system and storm sewers. In the coming months crews will continue implementing drainage improvements and reconstruct 40th Avenue in concrete (complete with 8 foot sidewalks on the south side of the street) allowing for the East Rail Line to be constructed on the north side. The new 40th Avenue will be an interesting streetscape design as there will be no pedestrian space along the north side of 40th Avenue, unlike its pre-construction state (if you can call a dirt pad for bus stops a pedestrian space). This will keep all pedestrian and bicycle traffic on the south side of 40th Avenue. 40th Avenue should open again to traffic sometime early next year.
Very large (more than ten feet tall) box culverts will form the foundation of the new sanitary sewer system underneath 40th Avenue. Crews are hard at work completing the improvements, however, construction of this magnitude will take time.
For a sense of scale, check out the tractor next to the box culverts.
The culverts interlock and seal – just like giant blocks complete with a rubber seal.
Next, we will take a look at the progress at the Colorado Station and the Quebec Bridge approaching Stapleton.
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.
We’re starting to see the first signs of construction along 40th Avenue near the Union Pacific Railroad Inter-modal Freight Facility. 40th Avenue serves as the northern boundary of the historic Cole neighborhood and sees heavy semi truck traffic throughout the day serving the the freight yard as well as multiple business on the south side of the road. As part of the East Rail Line project, 40th Avenue will be completely reconstructed to allow construction of two commuter rail tracks, one lane of vehicular traffic in each direction (complete with a center turn lane), and an eight foot sidewalk on the south side of the road. Unfortunately, space constraints along the road prohibit construction of a sidewalk on the north side – with the exception of a 100 foot or so stretch on the far east end near York Street to serve a bus stop. The current plans call for this construction to start in September (subject to change).
There’s a running joke that the East Rail Line is a “drainage project with a transit component” in that a lot of the areas along the alignment, especially those closer to downtown. The reconstruction along 40th Avenue will epitomize that perception of the project. The map below shows the extent of the road closures to complete the reconstruction of 40th Avenue. There have been long-standing issues related to the drainage from the freight facility into Cole. As part of the reconstruction project, 40th Avenue will have a new water retention basin underneath the road to catch and drain water from the freight yard and handle flows from heavy rain and snow melt events. The road will then be reconstructed with full-depth concrete and the previously mentioned sidewalk on the south side and commuter tracks on the north side.
The pictures below give an idea as to the how the road looks today to those who aren’t familiar with it already. It’s a pretty bumpy road in its current condition and its lack of sidewalks or any other streetscape amenities make it less than friendly to bikers and pedestrians alike.
There are multiple businesses along 40th Avenue that need the street to access their loading docks. The street being closed for 18 months obviously prohibits that. As a mitigation measure, RTD worked with business owners along the road to relocate loading docks to other streets to allow continued loading dock and building access during construction.
As mentioned before, this portion of the East Rail Line project is projected to kick-off in September (subject to changes in the construction schedule). Once there’s a more definitive date set, I’ll keep you posted. Next post, we’ll take a look at some of the construction progress at the realignment of the 40th Avenue/York Street/Josephine Street intersection.