Due to the proximity of the first stage gas turbine vanes to the combustor, coolant introduced to the combustor walls interacts with the endwall film coolant and changes the vane passage flow physics. Recent results show that combustor coolant contributes significantly to cooling the endwall and vane surfaces. In this paper, the traditional combustor-turbine interface was modified to improve overall cooling performance. The performance of this new injection cooling scheme on passage fluid dynamics and surface cooling is assessed. The first of this two-part paper reports detailed experimental tests that document secondary flows and coolant transport throughout the vane passage for four combustor coolant flowrates. The experimental facility imitates combustor coolant injection and engine-level turbulence and has a modified transition duct design, called the ‘close-coupled combustor-turbine interface.’ The ‘impingement vortex’ seen in previous studies with combustor cooling appears as the dominant secondary flow. It is observed in the present study over a wide range of flowrates, confirming its tie to the combustor coolant flowrate and not the combustor-turbine interface geometry. It was found, however, that the location and size of the impingement vortex are affected by coolant flowrate. The second of this two-part paper discusses the impact of the observed secondary flows on cooling vane passage surfaces.