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Denver Union Station Update #93: A 2011 Retrospective

In keeping with Ken’s tradition of looking back over the previous year of Denver projects, he and I thought you might enjoy a retrospective of the Union Station project.

If you are new to this website or new to Denver, you need to know that there is a new bus terminal behind Union Station. Really! It’s there. And here’s the story of it so far.

The two photos below are from Update #48 on January 7, 2011. As you can see in the first one, much work on phase one of the bus terminal had been accomplished in 2010: the giant hole was excavated; the four-foot thick floor was laid; the walls were built; and the roof beams were being installed. Notice that three cranes were at work.

 

In the second photo above, the canopy over the light rail platform was completed, and finishing touches were in progress on the mall shuttle canopy.

So that’s the way it was at the beginning of 2011. The day after returning from a long road trip in late February, I met with Hunter Sydnor at Kiewit’s office to get an update on seven weeks of progress. And there was plenty for us to talk about.

By the end of February, the bus terminal roof was nearly complete (first photo below), the vertical walls of the skylights had been built (second photo), and the foundations for the three air inlet/outlet towers were in place.

 

Still in February, finishing touches were being made on the light rail tracks, and the Amtrak station had  moved to its temporary quarters on February 3.

 

By mid-March, the bus terminal was water-tight so the dewatering system was dismantled and the filtration system was hauled away. Work on the light rail overhead catenary system was underway (see photo below) and backfilling behind the bus terminal walls was nearly finished.

 

In Update #58 on April 10, I showed the following contrasting photos of the scene immediately behind Union Station. The span of time between the two photos was a mere five weeks. The tracks were gone, and the Amtrak passenger platforms had been demolished. However, the mall shuttle platforms remained for a while longer.

 

Backfilling on the roof of the bus terminal began in early April. In the photo below, you can see early backfilling and the waterproofing material being applied to the roof.

On April 26, excavation of the second half of the bus terminal began. It wasn’t long before the mail and baggage tunnels were revealed for the first time in many decades. Here’s a photo of the mail tunnel near 16th Street.

On April 28, I got my first tour inside of the bus terminal and wrote about it in Update #61. I remember being struck by the immensity of the space.

Moving along, the month of May saw the construction of streets. The mall shuttle loop was being built and Chestnut Place was being rebuilt, crossing over the bus terminal roof.

If there is a sad part of this story, it’s the loss of the beloved, historic passenger tunnel. In several posts throughout 2011, I gushed about the historic significance of that tunnel and my personal attachment to it: my Dad’s passing through that tunnel upon his return from the war in the Pacific in 1946 en route home to Medina, New York, to see his four month old son (me) for the first time. Here’s a photo of the beginning of the tunnel’s demolition in May 2011.

I like the following photo. It’s a wide shot of the area behind the station at mid-year. Phase 2 excavation was well underway; the mall shuttle station was still in operation, all three of the tunnels were gone; Wewatta Street was still open.

It’s exciting when a project gets to the finishing-touches stage. Lots of highly visible stuff happens. In mid-July, the Chestnut Pavilion started to take shape, and the new light rail station passenger platforms were completed (first photo below). Also, streets were completed, and the three air intake/outlet towers were built. The second photo is a good reminder of the appearance of the towers since they have been wrapped in blue plastic for the past several months. They are due to be unwrapped soon.

 

The Central Platte Valley Light Rail Line was shut down on July 22 in preparation of connecting the tracks at the new light rail station to the main line. Also in late-July, 16th Street and the light rail tracks embedded in it were torn up.

 

The lights were turned on for the first time on August 2 at the newly completed light rail station. This is another of my favorite shots.

The month of August was huge. Everything to do with the new light rail station was coming together: tracks, lighting, sidewalks, signage, railings, even light rail tests rides. The place was ready for action.

 

Then it finally happened. The new light rail and mall shuttle stations opened on August 15, 2011. This photo is from 5:50 that morning. I think it was the arrival of the first train. A VIP train following a couple of hours later. Go to Update #82 to see several videos of the celebration.

The first photo below is the scene at 8:00AM on August 22. The second one is 2:00pm on August 25. Nuff said.

 

By mid-September,the Chestnut Pavilion canopy was finished, the tear-drop planters started to show up, and a new pile of dirt was growing.

After a delay of several weeks due to a water contamination problem that was difficult to remedy, phase two excavation resumed by late-October. At the same time, there was plenty of activity constructing the tear-drop planters near the new light rail station.

 

Phase two excavation was nearly complete in November. Work began and continued into December on foundations for the eight sets of tracks (commuter rail, Amtrak, and Ski Train) that will be place over the roof of the bus terminal immediately behind Union Station.

As most big construction projects near completion, they rise up to highly visible structures that can be admired from near or far.  Not so with the Union Station project; progress results in its disappearance. I can’t wait for that first bus ride from the shining, new terminal that is someplace underground.

At the end of almost every blog, I remind you to take a look at JobSiteVistor.com for a more thorough visual tour of the project. By now, I have posted hundreds of photos on that site. You may enjoy a complete tour as I have done while writing this year’s retrospective.

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3 Comments

  1. Kio says:

    Thanks so much for the great look back on the year’s progress. It is so impressive what they did in a year!

    I used to live right by Union Station, and loved watching the progress and following along with your explanations of what exactly was going on. We recently had to move up north to Longmont, and I am excited to hear all about 2012’s progress from your blog! :)

  2. Dan says:

    Thanks for all your hard work and your devotion to this blog, Rick. It is very much appreciated buy those of us following this project from outside of Colorado!!

  3. Daisi says:

    Hi, i’m glad to find this site, i stumbled across it in AOL. This article is very interesting, thanks.