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Stories Along the Line: A game changer

Denver-area residents are in for a huge surprise this year. The city's historic Union Station reopens after $480 million in renovations to turn it into the crown jewel of Denver's bus-and-train transit system.

Denver Union Station train hall canopy lit up at night. Photo credit: Kiewit Infrastructure Co. and James W. Jenson Photography
Denver Union Station train hall canopy lit up at night. Photo credit: Kiewit Infrastructure Co. and James W. Jenson Photography

The station - already being hailed as a "game changer" for Denver - will bring a new sense of design and presence to Lower Downtown.

It's spurring major economic development surrounding it, and it will serve as the transportation hub that changes how people in the entire region will get around.

Union Station's reopening happens in several stages beginning with the bus concourse May 11 and the historic train hall in July.

RTD's Free MetroRide, a no-fare bus service that complements the 16th Street Free MallRide, also starts departures and arrivals at Union Station at that time.

The commuter rail lines arrive starting in 2016. Other transportation options will make Union Station their home as well.


Little-known facts

Built in the Central Platte Valley at a cost of $525,000, Union Depot, as it was first known, opened June 1, 1881, during the era when Colorado and the rest of the West was undergoing rapid industrialization through coal production and transcontinental railroad expansion.

Union Depot opened in Denver in 1881.
Union Depot opened in Denver in 1881.

The historic train hall, built in the beaux arts style, has evolved over the years and architectural details that once were iconic images in their day have vanished, including a four-faced clock tower and the "welcome" or Mizpah Arch that used to stand on 17th Street just west of Wynkoop Street. The arch was dedicated July 4, 1906, and dismantled Dec. 7, 1931, after the city deemed it a traffic hazard.

An 1894 fire, reportedly caused by a short circuit in a ladies room chandelier, caused extensive damage to the station's grand train hall, which was rebuilt and made its debut in 1914. As part of those renovations, the Denver Union Terminal Railway Co. tore down the station's stone clock tower and replaced it with the lower expanded center section visible to this day.

More to see...

As the U.S. highway system improved in the post-World War II era and more Americans opted to drive to their destinations, train travel took a back seat to car trips.

In the 1950s, Denver mounted the orange "Travel by Train" sign to beckon travelers during the waning days of passenger rail service.

Denver's newly renovated Union Station will feature a new architectural icon: a soaring train hall canopy made of white tubular steel covered with PTFE, the same material Denver International Airport architects used for DIA's main terminal roof. The $15 million canopy covers an area the size of nearly two football fields and features a large oculus at its center that is a nod to Union Station's beaux arts architecture.

Amtrak at Denver Union Station
The Union Station train hall canopy after an Amtrak train arrived. The historic building is in the background.

It Takes a Region

RTD FasTracks and its regional partners will continue to work together to serve the Colorado public. RTD is committed to the build-out of FasTracks - including Denver Union Station - sooner rather than later so the region will have more transit options as residents choose where to live, work and play.

Link:  Denver Union Station's history and timeline
Link:  Union Station schedule changes

See more Stories Along the line




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