RTD official stakes job on 2020 N-Line

Commuter train is late but will be operating next year, staff vows

Posted 8/28/19

Thornton, Northglenn and the communities along RTD’s Northern Metro Commuter rail line might not see service by the end of March 2020, but the will see it sometime next year — Allen Miller, the …

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RTD official stakes job on 2020 N-Line

Commuter train is late but will be operating next year, staff vows

Posted

Thornton, Northglenn and the communities along RTD’s Northern Metro Commuter rail line might not see service by the end of March 2020, but the will see it sometime next year — Allen Miller, the Deputy Assistant General Manager of Commuter Rail, staked his job on it.

“All I can do is offer you my personal assurances that we are committed in operations and in capital to opening this line in 2020,” Miller told a roomful of Adams County residents. “We will not extend it to 2021. We will get it in 2020.”

Miller joined Chief Operations Officer Michael Ford and several other RTD staffers in Thornton City Hall Aug. 19 to brief users on the commuter rail status and planned changes to bus service connecting it.

“Since last November through June, we’ve worked with the communities along the N-Line to discuss what we are thinking route-wise and service and so forth,” Lead Service Planner Nataly Handlos said.

It was the first of a three-meetings RTD hosted update residents on the commuter rail line’s progress and get their feedback. RTD also hosted a meeting Aug. 21 in Northglenn and Aug. 22 at the downtown Denver office.

The N-Line was announced in 2013 and was originally scheduled to begin service in 2018. Cities rushed to finish building stations and other developments along the route.

Track testing began in March 2019. Powered cars began moving along the route on April 15 and are continuing regularly anytime from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday — with occasional Saturdays as well.

Thornton City Councilor Jessica Sandgren asked point-blank if the commuter train service would begin in the first quarter of the next year, but RTD officials hedged.

“Let’s just say 2020,” COO Ford said.

That led Sandgren and others in the audience to ask if that was true or if the date of service would get pushed further back. Miller admitted the train service was behind schedule but insisted that the trains would run sometime next year with quiet zones for N-Line neighbors in place and a positive train control system onboard and in operation.

“To achieve those things in 2020, I have a laundry list of things I must meet in operations,” Miller said. “I can guarantee for every one of you in this room that I will meet those requirements. We will not open this line any later than 2020 and we will open this line efficiently and we will open it with full quiet zones. We will not open up like other lines with flaggers at the crossings for six months to two years. That is my guarantee to you.”

Then, he upped the ante, gesturing to Ford.

“I will tell you how serious I am about this guarantee: My boss is standing right here, and I offer up my resignation if we do not meet 2020,” Miller said.

29-minute rides

The 13-mile-long route leaves Union Station and travels northeast to the National Western Center at 48th and Brighton. There, it turns north and snakes its way through Commerce City and Northglenn before ending at Thornton’s Eastlake Station at about 124th and Claude Court. RTD has plans to extend rail service north to Highway 7 eventually.

There are five stops between the Eastlake and Union Station stops and RTD Outreach Manager Lisa Trujillo said the trains will run every 20 minutes during morning and evening rushes, taking 29 minutes from Eastlake south to Union Station. Train service will run every 30 minutes during off-peak hours.

The train will run from 4 a.m. to 1 a.m. Mondays through Thursdays and 4 a.m to 2:30 a.m. on Fridays.

Service runs from 5 a.m to 2:30 a.m. Saturdays and from 5 a.m. to midnight on Sundays.

Quiet zones and parking

Meanwhile, the trains will be blowing horns as they approach road crossings until service starts, Trujillo said.

“We are testing and that means we are being safe and you are hearing the horns because we are required to do it,” she said. “We also have crossing attendants and flaggers because that is another part of the requirement. It does not mean anything is wrong, it’s just what we have to do.”

The city of Thornton has already applied for quiet zone status, but Trujillo said those won’t begin until service actually starts.

“Once the line has been fully turned over to our team — that means that construction is 100 percent complete — there is further paperwork to put the quiet zones in effect. Even so, the train operator has the authority to sound that horn if they deem it necessary for safety.”

In all, the stations along the way have parking spaces for 2,480 cars — including the 880 spaces at the Thornton Crossroads parking garage at 104th and Colorado Boulevard.

Bus routes changing

Nataly Handlos, RTD senior services planner, also outlined a host of changes to routes connecting the rest of the area to the new train stations.

“We started working on this 18 months ago, determining what this should look like, what do we need to consider, what routes should be included in the plan,” Handlos said. “We’ve worked directly with agency representatives from the communities along the N-Line.”

Most of the changing involved extending existing routes so users in Westminster, Broomfield and Brighton will be able to connect to the commuter rail.

“All together there 20 routes and some are not routes that currently exist, so those will be new routes created out of the existing routes,” Handlos said. “There is no route that is going to be discontinued.”

The proposed new routes are available online at the RTD website at http://www.rtd-denver.com/servicechanges-n.shtml.

The RTD board is scheduled to vote on the route changes by the end of October.

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