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RTD to consider replacing rail line with bus service to Denver's northwest suburbs


The Regional Transportation District of Denver’s (RTD) board is reviewing three options for providing transportation to the area’s northwest suburbs, including whether to advance the plan to build the Northwest Rail Line or replace it with a bus rapid transit (BRT) system.

The shift in planning occurred after RTD officials learned the Northwest Rail Line’s projected cost had increased from $894.6 million to $1.7 billion, according to information posted on the agency’s website.

The Northwest Rail Line is a 41-mile, fixed-guideway route that would be built from Denver Union Station to Longmont, passing through North Denver, Adams County, Westminster, Broomfield, Louisville and Boulder. The project is part of FasTracks, a multi-billion-dollar transit expansion plan that calls for building 122 miles of new commuter- and light-rail lines, 18 miles of bus rapid transit, and 21,000 new parking spaces at light-rail and bus stations.

In early March, the board will consider the following options:

• Complete the Northwest Rail Line as planned and extend the completion date from 2020 to 2024. Given the cost increase, the original 2020 deadline is “unachievable,” according to RTD. The line was included in the FasTracks plan that voters approved in 2004 and is the most defined option, agency officials believe.

• Complete the Northwest Rail Line as planned and extend the completion date from 2020 to 2024, but also accelerate construction of several new RTD park-and-ride lots and provide interim bus service to them. After the line is completed, the bus service would be rerouted to transport riders to and from rail stations. This option would postpone the completion of six other FasTracks projects by six months each.

• Replace the Northwest Rail Line with BRT. RTD would commit the remaining Northwest Rail funds capped at $894.6 million to the BRT system.

Each of the three options would assume a successful FasTracks sales tax election this year, RTD officials said.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 2/23/2012