Colorado finally bought the old Denver train yard that will allow it to expand I-25

And perhaps eventually, downtown access for a Front Range passenger rail line.

Burnham Repair Yard, Lincoln Park, Sept. 13, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Burnham Repair Yard, Lincoln Park, Sept. 13, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Nathaniel Minor

The state of Colorado will buy an abandoned rail yard just south of downtown Denver that will allow for the expansion of Interstate 25, RTD’s busiest light-rail corridor, and perhaps eventually, downtown access for a Front Range passenger rail line.

The Department of Transportation has been trying to buy about 60 acres of Burnham Yard from Union Pacific for more than a year, but the coronavirus pandemic and the temporary budget disaster it brought for governments threw the plan into jeopardy.

It took three state entities — the Office of Economic Development and International Trade, the High Performance Transportation Enterprise, and CDOT — working together to finally seal the deal, which got final approval Thursday from the state Transportation Commission. The purchase price was $50 million.

All that work will pay off for decades to come, said HPTE Director Nick Farber. 

“We see it as an opportunity to improve mobility from Colorado Springs up to Fort Collins,” Farber told the Transportation Commission Wednesday. “This is one of those once-in-a lifetime opportunities.” 

The state expects to use about 17 acres for transportation needs, and the rest will be sold for private development. A freight rail line next to I-25 now could be moved to Burnham Yard in the future, allowing CDOT to expand the highway between Santa Fe Drive and downtown. 

Any major work on that stretch of I-25 is likely years away, as the state is still finishing big projects on I-70 and I-25 north and south of Denver. The state is also trying to balance highway expansion plans with its climate goals. 

The state expects to take possession of the property by the end of the month.

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