Jim from Denver writes, “What's driving you crazy? Santa Fe has a squeeze play were the left and right lanes are closed shortly after exiting I-25 south and lane closures as you approach I-25 north. How long will Santa Fe be under construction and when will it be paved? Feels like it's been years already.”
Good news and some bad news for you, Jim, as the lane restrictions you’ve been dealing with on Santa Fe Drive are coming to an end. However, more road work on Santa Fe Drive in that same area is scheduled for this summer and next.
Lanes on both sides of Santa Fe Drive between Mississippi Avenue and I-25 were closed for a little over a year to accommodate the construction of the new Kentucky Avennue bridge over the South Platte River as part of the coming Santa Fe Yards development. The original plan allowed for construction to last 18 months, however, the work was finished early in about 14 months.
Now that the structural work to create the new bridge is complete, the last of the lane closures on northbound Santa Fe Drive are reopening this week.
Even though the structure looks like it is ready to walk, ride and drive on, you won’t be able to use the bridge for several years.
First, there is going to be a large, artistic, weathered steel structure constructed across the northern side of the bridge. The signature feature will be the 85-foot, illuminated obelisk on the northwest corner of the bridge. The obelisk is designed to be one of several wayfinding deices within the development pointing people towards the Broadway transit station.
Architect Andy Rockmore, part of the Denver architectural firm SAR+, chose the distinctive natural material of Corten steel as a way to differentiate this area from the white, tube like structures along 16th Street at the Highlands and Millennium bridges.
"The weathering steel will be used as a consistent theme on subsequent bridges and pathways at Broadway Station to communicate mobility throughout the district," Adam Rude, Associate at SAR+ said.
Project managers are waiting for the custom manufactured steel to be created and delivered before they can complete installation later this year.
Secondly, the Colorado Department of Transportation wants to add a fifth lane on southbound Santa Fe Drive before the road surface is repaved.
“It’s about a $5 million project,” a managing member of Broadway Station Partners Rocky Mountain said. “We’re hoping to start on the fifth lane this summer, but the supply chain issues are just crazy. Part of what we have to do to expand Santa Fe is work along the water line. The coating they use was primarily made in Ukraine, so there are challenges with that. A good guesstimate of when the bridge will be open is probably two years.”
Mountain said the traffic signals as part of the new interchange is scheduled to go in this summer, but they won’t be turned on until there is new development at the former Gates Rubber site.
He also said CDOT has a plan to smooth out Santa Fe Drive in 2023 with new pavement, but the widening work needs to be completed first so the road surface only has to be stripped once rather than twice.
When open, the Kentucky Avenue Bridge will serve as a multi-modal crossing providing access for drivers as well as pedestrians and bike riders connecting the new development to the South Platte River Trail. There will be two other pedestrian bridges constructed at the development. They will both span over the heavy and light rail tracks east of Santa Fe Drive. Both will also use the weathered Corten steel to “unify the different bridges with a common language.”
That aesthetic structure work on the Kentucky Avenue bridge is scheduled to be completed this October. The final asphalt surface on the Kentucky Avenue bridge will be paved after that structure is installed.
The new bridge is just one part of the other roadway improvements in that area north of Mississippi Avenue. There will be an acceleration/deceleration lane along northbound Santa Fe Drive from Mississippi Avenue to the new West Kentucky Avenue intersection. There will be a left turn lane on southbound South Platte River Drive north of Mississippi Avenue to the new West Kentucky Avenue intersection. There will be improvements along Mississippi Avenue from the west end of the existing retaining wall on the north side of Mississippi Avenue for pedestrians with connections to the north‐south promenade system, Cherokee Street and Santa Fe Drive intersections.
The City of Denver is also planning on improvements to Broadway and Mississippi Avenue with the city’s South Broadway Reconstruction, Arizona Avenue to Kentucky Avenue project. Anticipated Mississippi Avenue improvements will include pedestrian improvements east of the Consolidated Main Line bridge.
According to the development plan, Santa Fe Promenade will be a multi‐use trail with a landscape strip adjacent to the berming that provides a buffer for future residential uses from the high intensity arterial nature of the Santa Fe Couplet. The trail provides a connection from the West Kentucky Avenue and South Santa Fe Drive intersection to the Mississippi Avenue underpass. The improvements are designed to enhance connections to both the existing and proposed street network and enhance the pedestrian environments.
Denver7 traffic anchor Jayson Luber says he has been covering Denver-metro traffic since Ben-Hur was driving a chariot. (We believe the actual number is over 25 years.) He's obsessed with letting viewers know what's happening on their drive and the best way to avoid the problems that spring up. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram or listen to his Driving You Crazy podcast on iTunes , Stitcher , Google Play or Podbean.