The West Colfax Business Improvement District (WCBID) is seeking to revitalize the West Colfax Viaduct to reconnect the structure to its historical roots and serve as a safe means of mixed-use passage for residents, commuters and tourists in one of Denver’s busiest transportation corridors. The Colfax Viaduct is a critical piece of infrastructure for area connections, and at the same time acts as a barrier to access for active transportation users. The current conditions are jersey barriers separating active transportation users from traffic and transit, no opportunities for vertical connections, no protection from natural elements and exposure to unsafe crossings and a jarring sensory experience. In the two times this team has led walks for stakeholders on the viaduct, we have arrived at the other side feeling frazzled, hot and stressed.
While to the east and west of the viaduct there are two through lanes of traffic for cars and buses, this span has three lanes. Vehicle speeds increase dramatically with wide lanes and highway like conditions. By re-balancing this space, we can decrease speeds, plan for dedicated bus space in the future, provide active mobility users with a safe and comfortable experience, add in vertical connections and create a piece of infrastructure that is iconic and that the community can be proud of.
A 360-Degree Opportunity for Improvement
While trails, entertainment, services and amenities are plentiful at both ends and underneath the viaduct, most users would not choose to utilize it in its current state.
Bringing Stakeholders Along & Together
All infrastructure projects are designed by and for people and the decision making processes are complex. The Colfax Viaduct runs through the City and County of Denver, is owned by the CDOT, touches down near Empower Field and the Auraria Campus and the redesign is being championed by the WCBID. The community on the West and East, and the increasing development on Lower Colfax and along the South Platte River are also critical stakeholders. There are a lot of hearts and minds at the table. This level of investment in the area is perfect for a robust iterative process that brings stakeholders together to incrementally build understanding of technical issues, area needs, and priorities.
One way to do that is by activing an area under the viaduct to and hold a series of international night markets planned for spring, 2022. To activate the space we partnering with the Westside Statium Community Coaltion, the Denver Streets Partnership and the Latino Cultural Arts Center to install murals and lighting art. Please see this WCBID Call to Mural & Lighting Artists for more details on the project. Installation in spring 2022.
Community Informs Priorities & Designs
With several meetings from a the community and a group of partner stakeholders setting priorities and shaping short-term designs for the viaduct, in October 2021, we held a community meeting and surveyed a broad swath of adjoining neighborhoods. The purpose of this engagement was to solicit input on these mid-term designs for the viaduct. The project team is now working input from this engagement into the designs and plan further rounds of feedback from partners and community members in 2022, including one of the night markets in May.
A Really Awesome Opportunity to Integrate the Viaduct into Our Communities
The viaduct touches so many things that make Denver iconic and the area keeps attracting new icons. From the stadium, to the river, to Meow Wolf and Denver’s biggest educational campus to the commitment to invest in affordable housing on the West and create Latino Cultural opportunities on lower Colfax. The viaduct spans so much of our identity and values. With inspiration, engaged stakeholders and long-term investment it can become part of what makes Denver great, rather than detracting from it.
Our Approach to Innovation & Creativity
When thinking about the Colfax Viaduct, we will bring innovative concepts that inspire both the community and stakeholders to engage in a robust dialogue about dreaming how the Viaduct can become a community asset as opposed to a foreboding barrier that restricts movement and elevates environmental stressors for all users. Our approach allows us to take small steps forward, pulling all of the priorities along in bite size amounts for the community and stakeholders to consume, interpret and inform. This is more than a transportation project, this is a project about creating a safe facility, that integrates into the communities it touches and can connect and support the assets both below, and to the east and west.
This project aims to think big and ensure that big thinking is grounded in reality. Once ideas have been generated and elements rise to the top as desirable and a good ﬁt for community and stakeholder priorities, as well as uniquely suited to solve for issues along the Colfax Viaduct we will turn priorities, challenges, needs and opportunities into metrics to evaluate the feasibility and alignment of the design elements. This will give us an additional lens to compile design elements and inform our alternatives development.
The existing structure was built in 1984 and has a good/satisfactory condition. Our analysis will consider what preservation actions are necessary to give the bridge resiliency beyond the 75-year design life. Our goal is to evaluate the whole picture of lifecycle and maintenance of the structure improvements in addition to the structural impacts of potential design ideas.
For example, if three unique options for vertical connections emerge we will look at high level cost of each, how they function given the available land for connections, how they integrate into the connection points, safety and comfort for users, aesthetics and innovation and community priorities that emerge in the prior phase. This information will be shared back with stakeholders and the community, who can also use this new information to further guide decision-making and inform the iterative process.