Government Technology

Denver's Ambitious Light Rail to Open This Month

April 4, 2013 By

The Denver region will start running trains this month on a new 12.1-mile light rail line, marking the launch of the first project of its ambitious “FasTracks” program that will eventually add 122 new miles of commuter and light rail service in and around the Mile High City.

The new West Rail Line, which cost $707 million to build, connects Denver to its western suburbs of Lakewood and Golden. The undertaking included construction of 11 new stations, 13 bridges and two tunnels. The West Rail Line was completed eight months ahead of schedule, and transit officials began testing trains on it earlier this year. Construction began in 2009 after the regional transit agency secured an agreement from the Federal Transit Administration to fund $308 million of the project.

Diane Barrett, chief projects officer in the mayor’s office, says the line -- along with other FasTracks projects -- is a key component of the city's long-term transportation plans. In 2004, voters approved a 0.4 percent sales tax to fund the $4.7 billion plan (the estimated cost has since escalated to $7.4 billion). In addition to the soon-to-open West Rail Line, the work includes another new light rail line, three light rail extensions, an 18-mile Bus Rapid Transit route, and four new commuter rail lines to be complete by 2024.

Officials have also touted FasTracks as a way to reduce pollution, sprawl and congestion; and Barrett believes it will play a key role in shaping the character of Denver's neighborhoods.

“The transit-oriented development opportunities are just vast," Barrett says. “[W]e have these opportunities to create real, livable places around stations where people don’t have to have cars. They can go to jobs and get an education without having to spend a quarter of their income on transportation. That’s huge."

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Mark M    |    Commented April 5, 2013

2 things. 1. The trip is 12.1 miles and will take 34 minutes? Isn't 21.35 miles per hour kind of slow for a “FasTracks” rail line? 2. "Since the 2004 vote, the estimated cost of FasTracks has escalated to $7.4 billion, thanks in part to sales tax revenue that didn't achieve expected levels due to the recession." The 57% increase in the cost of the project from 4.7 billion to 7.4 billion should have nothing to do with lack of revenue. Example, if a new car would cost me $20,000 dollars, that cost would not change if I got a pay cut at work. It would only effect my ability to pay for the car.

Diane    |    Commented April 5, 2013

Hello - from Australia. We don't do so great with transit-oriented development in that we do build up around train stations, but don't restrict carparking allocation all that much. Does Denver plan to do that? Otherwise there's a lot of talk about people will live,work,play all in the one area, but seem less inclined to if can scoot away in a car plus might not work in area, of course.

Will    |    Commented April 8, 2013

As someone from Denver, thats the overall average speed, yes. But remember, its a 12 mile line new track extension, or about 14 miles total including the old track into DUS. The whole 14 mile route consists of about 14 stations total, and the trains must stop at, and then accelerate from each station, reducing your average speed. Plus, this is the first and so far only light rail line to cut through a residential area, with a speed limit of about 35 MPH because of the Quiet Crossings to please residents, and LRV's at their peak can only reach 55 MPH anyway. Its by no means High Speed Rail....but I guarantee, 35 minutes its a lot faster then Driving 6th Ave to I-25 then to 20th St during Rush Hour

RealOscar    |    Commented April 11, 2013

I have now ridden subways in New York, Boston and Washington DC. What an amazing way of moving hundreds of thousands of people a day. I applaud Denver for doing this. Hopefully, the idea catches on like wildfire. As a side note, the ride (at almost 50 mph)in Washington DC was taking almost forever. I asked the guy next to me what was taking so long to get to the next stop. He said, "You realize that you are going under the Potomac River?".

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