South Downtown Rail Underpass

About

The City of Colorado Springs has initiated a study to determine the best approach for redesign and optimal placement of two railroad bridges at the south end of downtown Colorado Springs.  The bridge over S. Nevada Avenue is 70 years old and the bridge over S. Tejon Street is 115 years old. Both bridges are in poor condition and require replacement.

There are several planning and major redevelopment efforts underway near this project, including addressing older inadequate drainage facilities and aging utilities. As the infrastructure is replaced, there is value in considering both what is needed now and in the future by our community.  Because replacing these bridges and the associated transportation infrastructure is a 100-year decision with significant investment this project must responsibly consider the long-term implications of rail and city infrastructure investments.

The city has contracted with the engineering design firm of FHU and its team of specialists to develop a design through an alternatives development process for replacement of the two railroad bridge underpasses. As a southern gateway into to downtown Colorado Springs,  replacement is a high priority.

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South Nevada Avenue Bridge north view

South Nevada Avenue Bridge north view

The current Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority (PPRTA) “A” list identified funding for the design of both underpasses. The purpose of the project initially includes a determination of the location, size, and type of replacement structures. The City desires to move forward with the most cost-effective project, balancing initial capital cost with long term maintenance costs.

The assumed preferred alternative will consist of roadway underpass improvements for both South Tejon Street and South Nevada Avenue from West Fountain Boulevard to no further south and excluding the Fountain Creek bridge. Road improvements shall include a subsurface street drainage system and a water quality facility.

Both railroad bridges will be replaced in their entirety, with the exact location of each structure to be determined as part of this study. Track improvements will be necessary for realignment to the new bridge structures, either to realign with the new bridge typical sections or realignment to new bridge locations.  Track realignment improvements may extend as far north as the W. Las Animas at grade road crossing and as far south (railroad west) as the Mill Street corridor east of S Nevada. Retaining walls may be a necessary consideration to minimize right-of-way impacts.

Project Overview

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Study Boundary map:  Immediately impacted area of the study

Study Boundary map:  Immediately impacted area of the study

The railroad bridge over South Tejon Street was built in 1902 and is over 115 years old. Both the City and the railroad understand that the bridge is in poor condition and requires replacement. The adjacent railroad bridge over South Nevada Avenue was built in 1948 and will also need to be replaced soon.

The bridges and these segments of South Nevada Avenue and South Tejon Street are in the Mill Street Neighborhood, one of the oldest neighborhoods of Colorado Springs, located on the south side of Downtown. The freight rail corridor no longer serves many of the properties in this area. However, the rail corridor is heavily used by both the Union Pacific and BNSF railroads as a key north south through route, making it very important that both the rail corridor and public roadways continue to provide their current function.

Replacing these bridges and the associated transportation infrastructure is a 100-year decision and significant investment. This project must responsibly consider the long-term implications of rail and city infrastructure investments and carefully weigh options. Funding limitations, potential funding partners and alignment options must be understood along with the future city-building and quality of life benefits to ensure this project responds to the community’s needs.

Project Approach

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map showing area of influence

Area of Influence Boundary map:  Broader geographic area for public outreach/meeting notification

The primary objectives of this project are to make sure the bridges are in the right place, the right size and design. The project team of engineers, planners, urban designers, public participation and railroad strategists will focus on finding feasible bridge replacement solutions. Consideration will be given to current and future opportunities and constraints for this improvement and outreach to the community and stakeholders during the planning process to build partnerships, evaluate options, and identify potential funding opportunities. This will enable the City of Colorado Springs’ infrastructure investment to address both current and future needs. 

Project Goals

  • Gain an understanding of the long-term needs and opportunities for this public infrastructure;
  • Effectively address railroad operational, maintenance and safety needs;
  • Address pedestrian and bicycle connectivity and safety across the railroad tracks;
  • Design bridges and associated improvements that are compatible with and improve access to surrounding neighborhoods and land uses, and are supportive of development opportunities;
  • Design bridges to be more welcoming and attractive;
  • Address cost effectiveness to construct and maintain;
  • Maintain and improve traffic operations on Nevada Avenue, Tejon Street, and intersecting streets in the area;
  • Develop an improvement program and funding strategy that can provide timely financing through a combination of City, regional, federal, state and railroad sources;
  • Evaluate the development of partnerships both internally and externally to the City; and
  • Inform the public and engage stakeholders that may be potentially impacted by the project.

Challenges

  • Project Timing

The replacement of the Nevada and Tejon bridges is a large investment, requiring weighing of many considerations, and with implications for the long term. Due to the age of the structures, particularly the Tejon bridge, it is possible that sudden structural damage could result in the need to quickly reconstruct a bridge.

  • Longevity of Improvements

Decisions on railroad vertical and horizontal alignment and on bridge lengths, widths and structure types need to be made with the utmost care and the knowledge that they will be in place for generations.

  • Railroad

This project provides an opportunity to significantly improve the efficiency and safety of this heavily used stretch of mainline railroad through the center of Colorado Springs.

  • Transportation System

Given the age of the Nevada and Tejon railroad structures it is not surprising that the underpasses are not well suited to the current multi-modal travel needed in the area. The vertical clearances of both bridges create a barrier for high profile vehicles. Bike lanes are provided on Tejon Street, but there is an opportunity to greatly improve the level of service and attractiveness of those facilities on either side of and particularly under the railroad bridge.  Uncontrolled pedestrian crossings of the railroad occur in the Mill Street neighborhood west of Tejon Street.

  • Community engagement
  • Urban Design/Aesthetics

Study Schedule

  • Study Initiation/Planning/Stakeholder and Public Involvement: September 2018 – July 2019
  • Preliminary Design: August 2019 – January 2020
  • Final Design and Alternative Project Delivery: February 2020 – February 2021)
  • Construction:  To be determined

How to Participate

The City will be working closely with stakeholders and the community to collect input towards the project design. Public meetings will be scheduled during the preliminary design/alternatives analysis phase of the project.  In addition, final design will be presented during a public open house.

If you have an interest in receiving project updates and meeting dates by email, send an email requesting to be added to the project database to: Carolyn@bachmanpr.com

Project Contacts

City of Colorado Springs

Aaron Egbert, PE Project Manager

Ph:  719-385-5465

aegbert@springsgov.com

Consultant Team

Tom Anzia

Tom.Anzia@fhueng.com 

303.721-1440 

Dan Krueger

Dan.Krueger@fhueng.com

719-314-1800

Steve Murray

Steve.murray@fhueng.com

719-314-1800

Public Involvement

Lisa Bachman, APR

Lisa@bachmanpr.com

Ph: 719.488-5908