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Behind the scenes at North Metro Rail public information

As a Public Information (PI) intern on the North Metro rail line I have the responsibility of putting together the monthly e-newsletter. Recently I got the chance to really see how PI plays a role in the project office with a rather complicated article for the newsletter.

For the “behind the scenes” segment of the newsletter we chose a bridge cooperation story. In partnership with RTD, the BNSF railway, and the City and County of Denver, there will be a bridge reconstruction project near the 48th & Brighton • National Western Center Station on the North Metro rail line.


Marion-Street-Bridge-map

For the research for this article I learned that the current one-track bridge causes quite a bottleneck for the BNSF trains. Since this bridge would be shared with the future "N" Line I looked to the professionals in the office to tell me more about how the bridge would be shared.

I first spoke with a civil engineer in the office. I wanted to know how many tracks would need to be built on the bridge to satisfy the needs of both BNSF and the North Metro line. He gave me the scope of work for the construction of the bridge but I still didn’t know how many tracks there would be.

I then went to a cost estimator. I looked at plans with him that looked like two bridges, one BNSF and one for North Metro.

To make sure I had all my bases covered and understood all the information I went to a structural engineer. She told me that there were actually going to be three bridges because there was going to be a "shoofly" bridge built first. The shoofly bridge would be used by BNSF during the reconstruction of the three-track bridge being built for BNSF. Lastly, the North Metro bridge would be built.

After so many different answers from different people I went to ask the project manager. He told me that there were going to be a total of two bridges built when all was said and done. The part that was so complicated was the number of tracks on the bridge. BNSF would have four tracks and North Metro would have one track. The order went like this; first the BNSF shoofly bridge, second an additional three tracks added for BNSF which attaches to the first single track. This makes one bridge of four tracks for BNSF. The additional bridge to be constructed will be the single-track North Metro portion.

After running around the office and talking to so many different people I felt like an investigative reporter. I learned why the PI team plays such a crucial role on a project.

When writing an article for the public you can’t just write down everything the engineers say. You have to get several different opinions.

As I talked to several different people in the office I realized they were all experts in their certain field and to get the big picture I would have to talk to several people and then put it all together. The cost estimator would tell me something different than the structural engineer because they were looking at the same picture but very differently.

As hectic as my research was, I learned a lot that day. PI helps bring all the information from different sources together into one concise piece of information that can be understood by all.

You can see how the article turned out here.