Transportation, medical facilities and university upgrades dominated this year's ranking of the biggest projects in the Mountain States, although a handful of commercial and office projects made the list, good news for an area in need of a private-sector boost.

To be ranked, projects had to be located in any of five states that comprise the Mountain States region. They could be any type of construction, from energy, heavy-highway and infrastructure work to new buildings and renovations. The list appears in ranked order by dollar volume of construction cost. Projects must have broken ground during calendar year 2012.

The regional list of top starts is an impressive mix of energy and infrastructure work, health care, commercial, higher-educational facilities and mixed-use residential projects. Topping it is a combined commercial-and-infrastructure project at Denver International Airport. The South Terminal Redevelopment Program (STRP) is a $500-million integrated project centered around a new transit center being built on the south end of the airport terminal. It includes an open-air public plaza and commuter rail line connecting the airport to downtown Denver.

The STRP's centerpiece is a 500-room, 14-story Westin hotel and conference center designed by Gensler and being built by South Terminal Expansion Partners, a triventure of Mortenson Hunt and Saunders in conjunction with the Parsons project management team. Kiewit is doing the sitework and roads, including utility relocation.

"The rail connection from downtown to DIA will make it more attractive to do business in Denver," says Stu Williams, STRP project manager for DIA and the city and county of Denver. The STRP will be complete in May 2015, a "happy coincidence" of timing with the airport's 20th anniversary, he adds.

Ranked second on the list is a collaboration by Denver's Regional Transportation District and the Colorado Dept. of Transportation on the $310-million U.S. 36 Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project. It adds one buffer-separated, managed lane in each direction, BRT ramp stations, auxiliary lanes between most interchanges and a bikeway extending from Federal Boulevard in Denver to 88th Street in Louisville/Superior. Phase 1, under construction by joint-venture design-builder Ames-Granite, will open in 2015.

Several new medical complexes also broke ground last year. The largest of these is the six-story, 275,376-sq-ft Lone Tree Multi-Specialty Medical Complex in Lone Tree, south of Denver. Led by Aurora's Adolfson & Peterson Construction, the $87-million project includes landscaping of the 20-acre site for a park and provides surface parking for 1,500 cars.

Denver's Saunders Construction is building the 175,000-sq-ft Children's Hospital Colorado South Campus in Highlands Ranch, Colo., which opens in late 2013. It will offer a range of pediatric medical services and consolidate existing Children's Hospital Colorado locations in Centennial and Littleton. GE Johnson, Denver and Colorado Springs, is constructing the nearly $50-million Cheyenne Regional Medical Center in Cheyenne, scheduled for completion in October.

Higher-education construction remains robust, with the University of Colorado at Boulder generating three big projects. The $71-million, multiyear, multi-phased Central Utility Plant and Infrastructure Upgrades project, being built by Denver's JE Dunn Construction, includes a new heating and cooling plant, renovation of the campus' 102-year-old powerhouse, replacement of existing chillers and a new 2-MW steam turbine generator. The two powerplants will be connected by new chilled water lines and steam and condensate distribution systems.

Boulder's $50.9-million, 300,000-sq-ft campus recreation facilities improvements project, led by Saunders Construction, renovates and expands the existing student recreation center, improving exercise amenities inside and adding a new outdoor swimming pool, social area and entry courtyard. Kiewit is upgrading and expanding two student residence halls and the community commons in the Kittredge complex, a $48-million project that should be ready for students by the fall semester. Jacobsen Construction, Salt Lake City, is building the $44.3-million UVU Student Life Center and parking garage in Orem, Utah.

New government work, hit hard by federal, state and local budget cuts, includes a massive upgrade of the operations facility at Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora, Colo., being built by Hensel Phelps Construction, and a new $52-million judicial building in Pueblo County, under construction by H.W. Houston, Pueblo, Colo.