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Photo: LOA Architecture


Denver — The Denver International Airport (DEN) is celebrating the 25th anniversary of the construction of its Pedestrian Bridge, one of only two of its kind that are built in the world today. The bridge connects the Main Terminal with Concourse A, with a security portal on its lower deck and international customs accessed on its upper level. Constructed in 1993 in an effort to offer a pedestrian alternative to the new airport’s inter-terminal train system, the bridge was a widely acclaimed design feat for its time.

“This project was incredibly sophisticated. This was the first time a passenger structure had been built in the world large enough to allow for planes to travel underneath. And at a length of 365 feet, we designed it so two planes could pass under it side-by-side,” said Luis O. Acosta, the Architect of Record who led the project’s design.

Built as its own freestanding structure, the 40-foot wide, 365-foot long passenger bridge was designed by LOA Architecture (previously Luis O. Acosta Architects). Other design team members included the structural engineer and prime consultant LONCO (now operating as Benesch), mechanical engineer Behrent Engineering, and electrical engineer Roos/Szynskie. The bridge was built by M.A. Mortenson Company. The project’s construction took less than 12 months, and at the time the bridge was built, it is still currently the longest free-span airport bridge in the U.S.

The bridge, not originally included in the airport’s master plan, was added after the main Terminal and Concourse A had already been constructed. Since the two buildings did not align at the same height, and were not designed to connect, the architects were tasked with the further challenge of creating an arc that would be both structurally sound and visually appealing. A further challenge to the project, of course, were FAA restrictions that required a clearance distances from the top of the runway to the underside of the bridge as well as consideration for the bridge’s deflection under various loading conditions.

Further challenges the team had to address included creating a structure that did not allow icicles to form, which could cause damage to planes passing underneath, and supporting the massive, two-level bridge when the underground passenger train ran directly underneath causing regular vibrations.

An all-glass curtain wall system encloses the bridge providing a panoramic view of Colorado’s diverse environments with the Rocky Mountains visible to the West and the plains to the East.

“This team did a wonderful job of creating something never before built, in a condensed timeframe to support Denver’s globally-renowned airport. That the project has remained virtually un-touched since its construction is a real testament to the talent that brought this project to life,” said Brian Holland, with Mortenson Construction.

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