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Work on High Line Canal Underpasses at Colorado & Hampden Starts Soon

Work on High Line Canal Underpasses at Colorado & Hampden Starts Soon

highline canal trail

It’s gratifying to have some good news to share in the midst of a pandemic. For fans of Denver’s High Line Canal, this story will provide a hefty dose of happiness.

Next month, the City of Denver will start the long-anticipated $7.2 million project to provide better access to the High Line Canal at the Hampden Avenue and Colorado Boulevard junction. This disjointed section of the canal has been a sore spot for outdoor enthusiasts for decades. When completed, pedestrians and cyclists will be able to travel north and south unimpeded through two underpasses.

This combined effort by Arapahoe County, the City and County of Denver, and Cherry Hills Village signals the end of a 4-year process that included studies, community input, and necessary approvals. The end result will provide desperately needed improvements on the Canal between Denver and the southern suburbs, and will enhance access to this popular recreation corridor.

Once the project is completed, people will use underpasses on Colorado and Hampden that will provide an uninterrupted route on the High Line Canal. The two underpasses will be linked by a trail that will run parallel to the Wellshire Golf Course.

Currently, people wishing to continue travel south on the High Line Canal at Eisenhower Park must use a sidewalk that parallels Colorado Boulevard and Magna Carta Park. Once at the intersection of Colorado and Hampden, they must traverse two crosswalks to get to the south side of Hampden Avenue. From there, trail users either walk along Hampden (not advisable since there aren’t sidewalks) to get to the trailhead across from the Wellshire Golf Course or cut through the Covington neighborhood in Cherry Hills Village, and cross the bridge trailhead to access the Canal.

This choppy transition of an otherwise blissful trail has been a bane of its users. The new underpasses will not only encourage use of the trail both on the north and south sides of Hampden, it will also do so in a safe and efficient way.

Heather Burke-Bellile of the Denver Transportation and Infrastructure Department recently provided some details on the upcoming construction.

What is the cost of the project? Who are the entities picking up costs and what percentage are they contributing? 

The total cost for design and construction is about $7.2M. Federal funds are being used for a large chunk of the costs (about 80%), while the City and County of Denver, Arapahoe County and Cherry Hills Village are contributing about 7% each.

What agencies were involved and how were the neighborhoods involved?

Denver has worked closely with CDOT, Arapahoe County and Cherry Hills Village on the project. We held meetings with residents in these communities to educate and inform them about the project in 2017 and in 2019.

What agencies/individuals spearheaded the project?

DOTI spearheaded this project with support from Arapahoe County and Cherry Hills Village, while CDOT provided oversight.

How will the tunnels be established? Please explain the process. How wide are the underpasses? Same width for both?

Each underpass will be 10 feet tall by 14 feet wide. To construct the underpasses, it will require lane closures on Colorado Boulevard and on Hampden Avenue. We’ll also have to fully close Colorado Boulevard for two weekends, and fully close Hampden Avenue for two weekends at the intersection.

What delays can people expect?

DOTI’s goal is to keep people moving while work is underway. For the installation of the Colorado Boulevard underpass, we will need to fully close Colorado at the Hampden intersection for two weekends (dates are still being determined). Doing this work over two weekends will help crews complete the work more quickly and prevent multiple street closures on Colorado during the week. The same will occur for construction of the Hampden underpass – Hampden will fully close for two weekends at the Colorado intersection.

There will be one long-term closure while the underpass is installed – the westbound right lane on Hampden Avenue.

Outside of underpass construction, people can expect single lane closures occasionally near the Colorado and Hampden intersection, but all travel lanes will remain open during peak travel times.

It’s also important to mention, the High Line Canal Trail is part of a regional trail system, so detours will also be in place throughout the project for those walking and riding bikes.

DOTI will give people advance notice on these closures and detours.

Please provide the timeline for completion

Construction is expected to take about a year. We anticipate the project will be complete in spring 2021.

Will both projects be undertaken simultaneously or will one be started before the other? 

The Hampden and Colorado underpasses are part of the same project. Each underpass will be constructed separately, so we can space out travel lane closures on both corridors to lessen impacts. The construction schedule is still being finalized.

In addition to the underpass on Colorado, will there be other improvements along the street leading to the High Line Canal at Eisenhower Park? Additional signage? Other enhancements?

The end of the Colorado underpass on the east side of the street will be connected to the existing trail to the north. In addition, trail guideway signs will also be installed (to direct people to where the High Line Canal picks up again at Eisenhower Park) and there will be landscape improvements.

Why is this project significant?

Currently, the High Line Canal Trail leaves pedestrians and people on bikes at Colorado and Hampden, which can be an intimidating intersection to cross on foot or on a bike – about 77,000 vehicles drive through each day. This project will build two underpasses to reroute the trail under Colorado and Hampden to create a safer, more convenient connection for people walking and riding bikes. In addition, between the two underpasses, Denver will add a new, 10-foot wide multi-use trail along the north side of Hampden. 

What type of surface will be used for the walkway south of the Wellshire Golf Course? 

A 10-foot wide, concrete path will be used for the walkway.

Will there be disruptions on the golf course during the construction?

We don’t anticipate disruptions to the Wellshire Golf Course or to Magna Carta Park. A fence will be installed to separate golfers and users of Magna Carta Park from the construction zone.

In addition to these improvements on the southern end of the High Line Canal, Burke-Bellile added that the eastern section of the Canal will also see enhancements this year. Underpasses will be added at the intersection of Mississippi Avenue and Parker Road as well, which will provide a continuous trail. Construction on these improvements are expected to begin in fall 2020.

According to the city of Denver website, “the new underpass will eliminate Parker Road as a barrier, significantly improving the safety and experience of the High Line Canal Trail pedestrians and cyclists. Users currently experience long delays of up to 120 seconds at the Mississippi Avenue and Parker Road intersection. The new underpass will also create a quicker connection, while enhancing traffic operations.”

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