Council hears plan for bridge improvements to light rail project

Councilwoman Molly Markert said the canopy design offered little protection for commuters. “Weather comes at you from all sides,” she said. “It’s a waste to spend $2 million dollars on a pretty bridge that doesn’t accommodate basic needs.”

AURORA | The city may spend $2 million for a decorative archway that covers the Colfax station bridge as part of the Interstate 225 light rail line.

Preliminary renderings show a curving, translucent canopy that could span the entire archway, with cables that  fan out in a rising sun theme and light up at night. The bridge also serves as a commuter station as it crosses East Colfax Avenue at I-225 and heads north toward Fitzsimons Parkway.

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Artist concept of proposed light rail pedestrian bridge over Colfax Avenue at I-225 FasTracks light rail station.

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Artist concept of proposed light rail pedestrian bridge over Colfax Avenue at I-225 FasTracks light rail station.

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Artist concept of proposed light rail pedestrian bridge over Colfax Avenue at I-225 FasTracks light rail station.

Councilwoman Molly Markert said the canopy design offered little protection for commuters. “Weather comes at you from all sides,” she said. “It’s a waste to spend $2 million dollars on a pretty bridge that doesn’t accommodate basic needs.”

John Fernandez, who oversees FasTracks for the city’s Planning and Development department, said the city was “severely limited” in the type of shelter it could build at the elevated station.

“There are strict limits in terms of clearances between trains and the bridge,” he said.

He also said the bridge would cost around $1.6 million with the proposed design.

“We hope at the end of this we can have a small balance to make other improvements,” Fernandez said.

The $685 million I-225 light rail project doesn’t include money for aesthetic improvements to the line. According to city documents, city council approved $14.3 million toward improvements for the eight Aurora light rail stations. The $2 million for the Colfax bridge is the second priciest improvement following the $6 million allocated for the parking garage at Iliff station.

Council members also agreed at the study session to dole out $680,000 among six nonprofit agencies as part of their Nexus program. Last year, they split $650,000 among six agencies, and gave a one-time sum of $144,000 to fund a pilot program by Arapahoe House and Aurora Mental Health called the Aurora Behavioral Health Care Collaborative.

The pilot successfully reduced unnecessary repeat emergency service callers by more than half from 2012 to 2013, according to city documents. Those calls can cost the city around $5,500 per call, according to documents. That program will receive the same funding as last year due to 2014 budget constraints.

Each of the organizations asked for more money than they received. The total requests for funding amounted to $931,090, or about $251,000 less than the city was able to give the agencies.

The $680,000 will be allocated as follows: Mile High Council/Comitis Family Services will receive about $247,940; Arapahoe House will receive about $119,310; SungateKids will receive $58,000; Gateway Battered Women’s Services will receive $119,885; Aurora Mental Health will receive $78,270; and Metro Community Provider Network will receive about $56,595; the Aurora Behavioral Health Care Collaborative will receive $144,450.

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