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CDOT Closes Burnham Yard Deal, Securing Critical Right of Way for Future Transportation Needs

May 27, 2021 - Central/Eastern Colorado

DENVER — The acquisition of a historic 58-acre rail yard in central Denver by the Colorado Department of Transportation will address critical transportation needs for decades to come and spur development on one of the last remaining large parcels in the central part of the city.

The deal, financed with funds from CDOT and the Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT), closed Wednesday, meaning the state can take possession of Burnham Yard by the end of the month.

“Burnham Yard is a transformational transit property for our state and can help Colorado meet our goals for making housing more affordable, commutes shorter and our air cleaner,” said Gov. Jared Polis. 

The High Performance Transportation Enterprise, a state-owned business within CDOT that finances and manages Colorado's Express Lanes, led efforts to purchase the property. HPTE had been planning to purchase Burnham Yard since 2019, but COVID-19 and the resulting decline in revenues pushed the deal off, and multiple attempts to obtain federal grants and loans to buy Burnham Yard were unsuccessful. The purchase finally happened after HPTE was able to partner with OEDIT. 

“This purchase represents a down payment on a multimodal, sustainable transportation future along the Front Range," CDOT Executive Director Shoshana Lew said. "This strategically located parcel is important for both transportation and economic development, which is why multiple agencies including CDOT and OEDIT have worked together on its purchase. We look forward to continued collaboration with our peer agencies, the City and County of Denver, and others as we develop a shared vision of this area.”

Under the deal, CDOT will pay the Union Pacific Railroad $50 million for the property, with HPTE and OEDIT each kicking in $7.5 million — for a total of $15 million — and the remainder being financed through a bank loan.

“Infrastructure is vital to sustained economic development and the Burnham Yard collaboration with CDOT is an investment in Colorado’s economic prosperity. We are pleased that we can help make this development possible,” OEDIT Executive Director Patrick Meyers said. 

CDOT anticipates using around 17 acres of the rail yard to relocate train tracks, allowing for improvements to I-25 through central Denver, while simultaneously reserving right of way for Front Range Passenger Rail and for an expansion of congested RTD light rail lines.

Located east of I-25 between West Sixth and West Eighth avenues, Burnham Yard dates to 1871 and is a little more than a mile long, extending from 13th Avenue to the north to Fourth Avenue at its southern point. There are about two dozen buildings on the site, which is currently zoned for industrial use. Union Pacific closed Burnham Yard in 2016.  

CDOT and HPTE will work concurrently on what portions of the property are critical for transportation infrastructure and work with Denver planning officials and the community to determine the use of the remaining parcel. 

About CDOT

CDOT’s Whole System-Whole Safety program has one simple mission — to get everyone home safely. Our approximately 3,000 employees work tirelessly to reduce the rate and severity of crashes and improve the safety of all modes of transportation. The department manages more than 23,000 lane miles of highway, more than 3,000 bridges and 35 mountain passes. CDOT also manages grant partnerships with a range of agencies, including metropolitan planning organizations, local governments and airports. It also operates Bustang, the state-owned interregional express bus service. Gov. Jared Polis has charged CDOT to further build on the state’s intermodal mobility options.