South Downtown Rail Underpass

Planning Phase

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.

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 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 Process & Schedule

  • 2018:  Project Initiation and start of stakeholder and public outreach
  • 2019:   Planning – Alternatives evaluation and recommendation
  • 2020-2021:  Preliminary design and property owner/stakeholder engagement (current effort)
  • 2022:  November construction ballot initiative election
  • 2023-2024:  Final design and railroad negotiations
  • 2025:  Earliest year for start of construction

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.

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 is focusing on finding feasible bridge replacement solutions. Consideration is 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.

  • Urban Design/Aesthetics

Study Schedule

Project Process & Schedule

  • 2018: Project Initiation and start of stakeholder and public outreach
  • 2019: Planning – Alternatives evaluation and recommendation
  • 2020-2021: Preliminary design and property owner/stakeholder engagement (current effort)
  • 2022: November construction ballot initiative election
  • 2023-2024: Final design and railroad negotiations
  • 2025: Earliest year for start of construction
  • 2022: November construction ballot initiative election
  • 2023-2024: Final design and railroad negotiations
  • 2025: Earliest year for start of construction

Presentation Documents

Preferred Alternative

The recommended Preferred Alternative is M1 (involves the least property impacts and lowest cost estimate of the numerous alternatives considered, and meets all the project goals including the Shooks Run connection to Legacy Loop and neighborhood Quiet Zones).  The estimated cost of this alternative is approximately $42.0 million.

(Estimates were developed without the Las Vegas/Trail Improvements yet included). The cost estimate will be further refined during the Preliminary Design Phase.  Cost estimates of the other options/alternatives evaluated ranged from $42 million to $112 million.

Preferred Alternative Alignment Recommended for Two South Downtown Railroad Bridges

The railroad mainline double track realignment in the preferred alternative would be between Sahwatch Street and El Paso Street. This alternative would shift the rail alignment slightly to the south and eliminate the curves in the existing rail alignment between Sierra Madre and Weber Street. The Nevada Avenue and Tejon Street railroad bridges would be relocated to the new alignment. Reconstruction of the railroad would also include a new rail bridge over the Shooks Run waterway.

Improved at-grade crossings:

The existing at-grade railroad crossings at Sierra Madre Street, Las Animas Street, and Conejos Street would be upgraded to be consistent with Quiet Zone Crossing requirements and address safety and noise issues in this part of the rail corridor. Minor improvements would be made to address sidewalk and other deficiencies on Sierra Madre Street between Mill and Las Animas Streets and on Las Animas Street between Conejos and Sierra Madre Streets. 

With the preferred alternative, the existing vertical clearance inadequacies between S. Nevada Avenue and S. Tejon Street with the two railroad bridges would be addressed by raising the bridges and lowering the streets slightly as needed. The roadway lowering and construction would extend for approximately one block between Mill Street and Fountain Boulevard and would represent relatively minor changes to the existing roadway grades. The length of the new rail bridges could accommodate wider roadway sections at Tejon Street (96 feet) and Nevada Avenue (108 feet) in the future. Incidental reconstruction of short portions of the cross-streets north and south of the existing railroad underpasses may be required, and sidewalk improvements will be included along Nevada Avenue and Tejon Street between Mill Street and Fountain Boulevard to address existing deficiencies.

Drainage improvements:

The major drainage improvement with the preferred alternative includes replacing the existing rail bridge over the Shooks Run waterway. Widening and transition of the existing channel accommodates the Shooks Run Trail for a critical connection to the Legacy Loop as defined in the Envisions Shooks Run Facilities Master PlanA plan for the development of a portion of the city that contains proposed land uses, a generalized transportation system, and the relationship of the area included in the plan to surrounding property.. Additional water quality and floodplain improvements in the Shooks Run and Fountain Creek floodplains will be included as required by the project. 

Summary of Features of the Preferred Alternative

The features of the railroad bridges and roadway underpasses reconstruction preferred alternative will improve safety, connections, accessibility and contribute to quality of life for residents of the Mill Street neighborhood based on the Mill Street Neighborhood Plan, and include:

  • Two New Railroad Bridges over S. Tejon Street and S. Nevada Avenue 
  • New Rail Mainline Double Track Realignment 
  • BNSF Railroad Spur & Yard Reconstruction/Relocation improvements to existing Sierra Madre, Las Animas and Conejos at-grade Railroad Crossings to create a Quiet Zones 
  • Reconstruction of Railroad Bridge over the Shooks Run waterway 
  • S. Nevada Avenue and S. Tejon Street Reconstruction as required for bridge replacements, increased height of the underpasses to meet minimum standards, and to address sidewalk deficiencies 
  • Water quality, floodplain and utility improvements as required
  • Accommodate the critical Shooks Run Trail connection to Legacy Loop between Old Stone Rail Bridge and Fountain Creek 
  • Provide property access as required for railroad realignment and bridge replacement

Public Engagement

The City is 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: lisa@bachmanpr.com

Public Meetings

Nov 19, 2020

A Digital Public Information Meeting for the South Downtown Rails Underpass project took place Nov. 19, 2020.

Citizens were able to participate online through computer and by phone and provide opportunities to ask questions.

Recording.mp4

Recording.mp4

Additional questions about the project may be emailed to Lisa@bachmanpr.com, public engagement.

Project Contacts

City of Colorado Springs

Aaron Egbert, PE Project Manager

Ph:  719-385-5465

aaron.egbert@coloradosprings.gov

Consultant Team

Tom Anzia

Tom.Anzia@fhueng.com 

303.721-1440 

Steve Murray

Steve.murray@fhueng.com

719-314-1800

Public Involvement

Lisa Bachman, APR

Lisa@bachmanpr.com

Ph: 719.488-5908


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