On the FasTrack to success

Monday 10 Sep 2012

New centrepiece for Denver's ambitious transit plans

The Denver Union Station project brings together commuter, inter-city, airport access, and light rail lines, along with a regional bus station and local circulating buses, into an intermodal transit district at the revived historic Union Station building on the edge of Denver’s central business district. SOM served as architects of all transportation elements and the lead urban designers of the transit-oriented neighbourhood, as well as structural engineers for the two rail stations. AECOM provided transportation planning and engineering services. Hargreaves Associates designed the public spaces.

The project is the centerpiece of the Regional Transportation District’s ambitious FasTracks program, which is being delivered as a public-private partnership, with federal, state, and local funding. The work is being constructed by Kiewit Western. The master planning process began in 2002. The project will be complete in 2014.

The project provides transportation capacity for more than 200,000 daily trips in 2030, facilitates intermodal connections, and integrates the transportation with future mixed-use development within the project area. The project will also provide an enhanced network of pedestrian and public spaces within and around the site in order to knit the new district into the existing Lower Downtown historic district to the east and into the newer Central Platte Valley residential neighbourhoods to the south, west and north.

The transportation program calls for a heavy rail station with eight tracks to serve Amtrak, new commuter rail lines to destinations along Colorado’s Front Range, and rail access to Denver International Airport. The light rail station has three tracks and two platforms, while the regional bus station connects the two at-grade rail stations with a below-grade pedestrian concourse with 22 bus slips. Multiple stops of two free circulating bus loops are distributed across the site.

Architectural design principles included the desire to establish a common architectural language for the transportation elements in order to allow users to intuitively identify entrance points for both at-grade and below-grade stations. A major goal was also to elevate the transportation buildings to the status of civic buildings. In doing so, however, the contemporary design of the new rail stations needed to remain deferential to the landmark historic station building.

The rail station canopies, as well as the bus station entrance pavilions, are constructed of painted steel tubes and fabric (PTFE) membranes. Particularly noteworthy is the profile of the commuter train hall, a canopy that rises 70 ft at the head-end platform, descends in a dynamic sweep to 22 ft at the centre, and then rises again at the far end. This form allows the structure to protect the platforms of the station, while remaining clear of the view corridor established by zoning to protect views of the historic station.

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