A new and improved half-mile stretch of East 40th Avenue in Denver that reopened in late June features the Regional Transportation District’s East Rail Line tracks but also brings community improvements that RTD officials say will provide safety and better quality of life.

Photo courtesy of RTD
Denver's 40th Avenue looking east from High Street, before reconstruction.
Photo courtesy of RTD
Denver's 40th Avenue looking east from High Street after reconstruction and installation of the East Line commuter rail to DIA.

The segment of East 40th Avenue between Blake and York streets was closed for 19 months due to construction. The finished product includes eight-ft-wide sidewalks where before there were just gravel shoulders; new underground gas, water, electric and communications lines; full concrete construction, including curbs and gutters; plus a large underground drainage culvert that will help solve chronic stormwater flooding in the neighborhood.

The East Rail Line, which will connect downtown’s Union Station with Denver International Airport, runs along the north side of the street next to the Union Pacific Intermodal Yard. As part of building the tracks, RTD’s contractor, Denver Transit Partners (DTP), worked with the city and county of Denver to install a 10-ft-square drainage culvert up to 20 ft deep under the street.

Providing drainage to the South Platte River, the culvert forms the backbone of infrastructure that, with future improvements, will become the water-collection system for the area and eventually carry heavy runoff from the Cole neighborhood that now results in frequent flooding.

The area’s first-ever sidewalks, eight ft wide, provide for better pedestrian safety on the busy street. RTD’s Route 44 bus, detoured onto narrow 37th Avenue, has moved back to its 40th Avenue route.

RTD and DTP worked with the Cole community and its businesses to discourage cut-through traffic during construction. Working with online mapping services, RTD had the road segment removed from the database so that drivers using navigation devices would be routed away from the closed area.

To facilitate deliveries to and from businesses that depended on 40th Avenue, DTP rebuilt loading docks and erected branded detour signs that directed only those trucks destined for area businesses, while discouraging other truckers from entering the Cole neighborhood.