Denver Dinosaur Promises Safe, Efficient Commute: The T-Rex Project Will Expand and Improve Interstates 25 and 225, and Add Light Rail Service to the Denver Metropolitan Region

By Davis, Lance | Nation's Cities Weekly, April 18, 2005 | Go to article overview

Denver Dinosaur Promises Safe, Efficient Commute: The T-Rex Project Will Expand and Improve Interstates 25 and 225, and Add Light Rail Service to the Denver Metropolitan Region


Davis, Lance, Nation's Cities Weekly


A modern day dinosaur is stalking the Denver metropolitan area.

And unlike its prehistoric predecessors, this T-Rex will be streamlined and multi-faceted, and promises to move thousands of commuters efficiently and safely through the region's Southeast Commercial Corridor.

T-Rex--the Transportation Expansion Project--is a $1.67 billion multi-modal transportation venture that will bring 19 miles of light rail and improve 17 miles of Interstates 25 and 225. The project began in the fall of 2001 and is expected to be complete by the end 2006.

A Dinosaur is Born

Denver's first major thoroughfare, the Great North and South Highway, was built at a time when the city had less than 300,000 register automobile owners.

It was replaced by the Valley Highway in 1958, which carried 33,000 vehicles per day between Denver and the outlying suburbs. By 1964, when work began on Interstate 225, traffic on the valley highway increased to 52,000 cars per day.

When work on Valley Highway finished, Colorado transportation officials estimated it would handle about 127,000 vehicles per day.

Likewise, I-225 was built to handle 50,000 cars per day along its 12-mile strip.

But Denver and its suburbs were rapidly growing. Between 1985 and 1998, the Texas Transportation Institute estimated traffic along both highways increased 43 percent, and identified Denver as the seventh most congested metropolitan area in the United States, and the I-25/I-225 interchange as the 14th busiest interchange in the nation.

By 1998, the Valley Highway was carrying 230,000 cars per day and I-225 was carrying 120,000 per day.

Adding to congestion along the Southeast Corridor--the area serviced by I-225 and Valley Highway--was the construction of the Denver Tech Center, an industrial park in the Denver suburbs.

Recent studies found that as many people were commuting from the City of Denver to the Denver Tech Center as were commuting from the suburbs to city's Central Business District.

By 2000, with more than 180,000 people working and commuting to both the Denver Tech Center and Denver Central Business District, and another 30,000 working along the Southeast Corridor, the time had come Denver and its neighbors to consider better transportation options.

T-Rex Evolves

In 1992, the Denver Regional Council of Governments commissioned a traffic congestion study to identify the most congested corridors in the metro region and to determine whether those corridors had appropriate traffic management planning in place through the year 2015.

The study showed that the Southeast Corridor had been identified as a likely candidate for highway expansion for more than 20 years. The study also showed that expected growth along the corridor had been surpassed and that traffic along Valley Highway and I-225 had surpassed their maximum capacity.

The study recommended that not only should the council of governments consider expanding the highway, but also incorporate some form of mass transit--such as light rail--along the Southeast Corridor.

A simple proposal on paper, but not so easy in reality since highway construction falls under the domain of the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), and rail construction was the purview of the Regional Transportation District.

To undertake a project that included highway rail components would require cooperation not only between the Regional Transportation District and CDOT, it would also mean they would have to work with the Federal Highway Administration, the Federal Transit Administration and the local entities represented by the council of governments.

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