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Denver Union Station Project Update #1

With construction now underway at Denver Union Station, I’m happy to announce that, starting today, we’ll have regular updates (at least once a week) of the project here at the DenverInfill Blog through the completion of the project in 2013. I’ve got not one, but two friends with spectacular Glass House views (Abe in the North tower and Rick in the South tower) who have kindly volunteered to take photographs of the project for DenverInfill. This first photo is from Rick and was taken late last week just before the snow storm arrived:

2010-03-22_dus

As you can see, excavation for the underground bus terminal (the “bus box”) is underway. Rick spoke with some of the construction workers on the site and learned that the hole excavated for the bus box will be 1300 feet long by 165 feet wide by 25 feet deep. That’s nearly 200,000 cubic yards of dirt to be removed. About 54,000 cubic feet of concrete will be used to build the bus box. Additionally, the workers have started drilling holes for the shoring walls that will surround a portion of the bus box hole. Currently, they are using a huge excavator to remove the dirt and put it into dump trucks which haul it off site. Later, they will use bulldozers to push dirt into a hopper that will feed a conveyor system. Some of the dirt will be stockpiled on site to be used later for backfill behind the concrete walls of the bus box.

Rick also learned that work began last week to redirect water into the bypass water line that was installed on the Union Station side of Wewatta Street last summer. The current water line will be removed and replaced once the bus box excavation is complete. In two weeks, work will start on the new light rail station.

That’s one Union Station update down, about 199 more to go.

MONDAY EVENING UPDATE: As a follow up to this morning’s post, here are two photos from Abe from Sunday showing continued progress over the weekend:

2010-03-22_dus2 2010-03-22_dus3

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16 Comments

  1. Ralph says:

    Wow, look at those trucks lined up. Reminds me of 2007ish downtown when all the highrise sites were being prepped. Dump trucks everywhere. Any updates on the two lots on the right side of the photo? Is there a good possibility that Union Station will be completed and there will still be vacant lots under private control that remain undeveloped? Does part of the union station plan include building office/residential or is that all left to other entities? Sorry for all the questions, thanks for the updates, look forward to more.

  2. Ken says:

    Ralph, there are five sites on the DUS property itself planned for development: the two “wing” buildings, the two buildings parallel with Wewatta next to the commuter rail platforms, and the triangle parcel across Wewatta from Gates. All five parcels must be purchased by Union Station Neighborhood Company and several must be developed within the next couple years per the project agreement. Meanwhile, the parcels between 16th and 20th and between Wewatta and the CML are owned by E/W Partners or other owners. Those will be developed as the market allows. Considering all the parcels available and the state of the market, it could be a decade or more before the entire area behind DUS is developed.

  3. Ralph says:

    Ah.. thanks Ken. Even without the private development this project is huge. Not sure what else this could be compared to, I think it really is unique in its scope and potential impact on the city.

  4. Charles says:

    Hooray Progress!

  5. Stosh says:

    Hip Hip Hooray! Are there any concept images of the completed “bus box” we can see? Also, are there any concrete plans for the Greyhound station as of yet which I am assuming this is replacing? Thanks for the update and I look forward to many more!

  6. Aaron says:

    I know this is totally off topic, but Denver needs a downtown Macy’s off 16th street mall. A downtown Macy’s would be awesome!

  7. Ken says:

    Stosh. Greyhound chose not to participate in this project afterall. The new DUS bus facility will be to replace Market Street Station. I’ll post images soon.

  8. Nick says:

    Don’t mean to dredge up old issues, but are we still looking at the 2-3 block separation of commuter and lrt? No people movers? No engagement of LRT users with Union Station? I can forgive not putting rail underground instead of (or in addition to) busses, but we’re moving forward with a design that feels disconnected and confusing to commuters (particularly those from out of town.)

    I’m as big a fan of transit as they come, but discombobulated design flaws such as these (if these are what we’re moving forward with) just feed the fire for transit opponents while wasting money on a great (long term) project that we’ll have to “correct” in the future.

    Here’s to hoping it turns out better than I think it will.

  9. Charles says:

    I somewhat agree with Nick. While it’s great to see DUS getting some attention, the design of it is flawed. It would have made sense to have commuter rail, light rail, buses, etc. stacked vertically below the ground like a train station in Europe.

  10. Ken says:

    Charles and Nick: The problem is cost. It took the project team 3 years just to figure out how to pay for this design at $500 million. The original plan that had LRT, CRT and bus all underground was estimated at over $1 billion.

  11. Shane says:

    Question: What % of the new DUS design will be used if a new FastTracks tax isn’t passed this fall (or ever) and the build-out stretches to 2030? I’m just curious whether the new DUS will feel empty for a decade+ until the new lines are added? Let’s hope this isn’t the case and a new tax is passed, but I can’t help but wondering…

  12. Paul says:

    ^The two lines that will lead into DUS that would be delayed, the North and Northwest commuter lines, are the two least utilized lines. So, a delayed build-out wouldn’t necessarily mean an empty feeling at DUS, but you could look at a reduction of 30% in passenger counts at the station platforms where the commuter rail, AMTRAK, and special trains come in. However, the LRT and bus platforms will be 100% utilized and the passenger counts from the three LRT lines and bus lines will be close to equal to that of the commuter lines. Overall, you could be looking at a reduction in passengers at the entire DUS complex at somewhere around 15% less then at full build-out.

    However, remember that RTD always underestimates passenger levels.

  13. Nick says:

    I do understand issues of cost. I just don’t understand why LRT needed to be moved so far away from commuter. People can say what they will about transfer times at major European hubs, but as others have pointed out in the past, Union Station is going to be *the* hub for the Denver area. If I lived in Broomfield and commuted to the DTC (absurd, I know, but for the sake of argument), I have that much more time and energy added to my transfer *every day*. Any additional inconvenience just encourages automobile use instead.

    That said, I *am* excited that this is underway, and I actually hope to be proven wrong about how inefficient this seems. It will be nice to have a proper inter-modal hub in Denver and amazing once we get the line connecting Union Station with DIA. Perhaps even a few decades from now we’ll get a Front Range rail line and another Amtrak line to really make it worthwhile!

  14. SC48 says:

    I think this can work. Didn’t the plan include an underground moving walkway through the “bus box” that would connect light rail w/ commuter rail and then Union Station proper? Sure, it’s not ideal, but it does seem to be a workable solution given the imposed constraints, i.e. money.

    Additionally, I think that if light rail was placed under the commuter/Amtrack tracks, the empty privately owned parcels would likely remain empty a lot longer than they will now. With light rail next to the CML, that’s going to be a lot of people dropped on the doorstep of those empty lots everyday. Not a bad incentive for private developers.

  15. Nick says:

    I think the underground moving walkway has been abandoned due to the designed width of the corridor. Would love to be corrected if I’m wrong. Restoring the moving walkway to the plan improves its viability somewhat.

  16. Phil says:

    The two block walk, or shuttle ride, or people-mover trip is pretty much nothing anyway. It’s an extra minute or two, and if the scheduling is done right between commuter rail and the light rail, then that should be about right without having to wait the two minutes for a train at the other end of the station. In addition, hubs in major cities (such as Penn or Grand Central) have as much if not more space (and time) transferring between modes (subway to Amtrak, LIRR, New Jersey Transit, etc) and after easily navigating New York city myself between these various modes, I can with good faith tell you that this is basically a non-issue.