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Fall 2006 Newsletter




   GOLD LINE GEARS UP FOR INITIAL SCREENING

After finishing the scoping phase of the Gold Line Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), the RTD FasTracks Gold Line team is now beginning initial Alternatives Analysis for the corridor. Technically known as Conceptual Screening of Alternatives, this phase will include two public workshops where the project team will solicit specific input on the initial alternatives screening.  These workshops are scheduled for October 4th and 5th. 

"These meetings will provide more details on the alternatives selected for evaluation," said RTD Gold Line Project Manager Liz Telford. "We have begun the preliminary analysis of each alternative for the corridor and will summarize our initial findings during the meetings." 

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires that RTD conduct a detailed analysis of a reasonable range of transportation alternatives that address the needs of the corridor to determine their potential impacts. Those needs are defined by the Gold Line Purpose and Need Statement, the benchmark from which all EIS alternatives are evaluated.

About 200 comments were submitted during the scoping period, which ended on September 25th. In addition to accepting comments online, via email and by mail, the project team met with more than 300 individuals in the corridor to introduce the EIS and gather public input. These comments were used to identify the range of alternatives and issues to be evaluated during the EIS, the criteria used to evaluate those alternatives, and the Purpose and Need statement for the project. 

The October public workshops provide an excellent opportunity to get more information about the alternatives being evaluated and the conceptual screening that has been completed. Similar to the public workshops held on August 22nd and 23rd, these meetings will feature display stations with detailed Gold Line information. The project team will also be on hand to discuss the initial screening of alternatives for the Gold Line and to gather your comments.   


GOLD LINE Q&A WITH RTD PROJECT MANAGER LIZ TELFORD

Q: What factors does RTD take into consideration when evaluating alternatives for the Gold Line?
A:
During the current initial phase of screening, we are conducting analyses to identify issues that would give an alternative no reasonable chance for implementation. Those that have a "fatal flaw," either because of unworkable cost, irresolvable impacts, technical unfeasibility or not fulfilling the purpose and need, are eliminated from further consideration.  As we get into more detailed levels of evaluation, we'll get more in-depth with our quantitative analysis, like weighing the community impacts, cost-effectiveness, projected ridership, local land use plans, environmental impacts and how the alternative would improve mobility in the corridor. Public support is another key factor we consider in our evaluations.

Q: What's the best way for me to get involved in this project? 
A: Public input is essential to the success of the RTD FasTracks Gold Line EIS, and it's one of several important factors that we use when making decisions on the Gold Line. I recommend checking the project website (www.rtdgoldline.com) periodically to learn the most up-to-date details about the project and provide your input. While you're there, sign up to receive monthly email updates. Also, be sure to attend our public meetings; the next ones are scheduled for October 4th and 5th.  You can get regularly updated project information and record your comments by calling the FasTracks project hotline at (303) 299-2000. You can also submit your comments by emailing or by mailing them to: RTD FasTracks Gold Line Team, c/o GBSM, 600 17th Street, Ste. 2020-S, Denver, CO 80202. 
 
Q: After selecting a locally preferred alternative during the Major Investment Study in 2000, why is RTD re-considering all alternatives during the EIS?
A: Federal regulations require us to evaluate a reasonable range of transit alternatives during the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). However, recent legislation allows us to use previous studies of the Gold Line as a basis for the EIS. To do this, we must re-confirm the findings of previous Gold Line studies, like the 2000 Major Investment Study and 2005 Three Corridors Study, to verify that their findings still remain valid.

If you have a question on the Gold Line that you'd like to see answered in our next newsletter, please send your inquiry to
.  


PUBLIC GIVES COMMENTS ON A RANGE OF ISSUES DURING SCOPING

The scoping period for the Gold Line Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) officially ended on September 25th, with the public submitting more than 200 comments on everything from parking facilities to bike-friendly transit. 

As is required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), an EIS begins with the scoping phase. The Gold Line team conducted extensive community outreach during scoping to identify the public's concerns and explain previous planning efforts completed in the corridor. Public scoping meetings for the Gold Line were held on August 22nd and 23rd, 2006, with more than 200 members of the public attending over the course of two evenings.

While the public will continue to submit comments throughout the Gold Line EIS, there were several issues that were shown to be of high importance during the scoping period. As of the beginning of September, the Gold Line's alignment topped the list as the No. 1 issue for public comment, with some calling for RTD to look at a new arterial route to better serve northwest Denver, while others recommend sticking to the BNSF/UP railroad alignment. The second most popular issue for public comment was the type of technology to be used in the corridor and whether it is light rail transit or a type of commuter rail, such as Electrical Multiple Unit (EMU) or Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU). Conventional locomotive technology is not being considered. Station-related topics came in third, followed by comments on the overall FasTracks system. 

All of the comments taken during the scoping phase were used to help RTD refine and finalize the scope of what will be evaluated during the Gold Line EIS before going
into more in-depth evaluations during the Conceptual Alternatives Screening phase.
  
 RANK  COMMENT CATEGORY  NUMBER OF COMMENTS  PERCENT
 1  Alignment  46  19.1%
 2  Transit Technology  36  14.9%
 3  Stations  28  11.6%
 4  FasTracks System  22  9.1%
 5  Noise/Vibration  17  7.1%
 6 Right of Way/Property Acquisitions 17  7.1%
 7  Operations 15  6.2%
 8  Environmental Issues  9  3.7%
 9  Pedestrians/Bikes  9  3.7%
 10  Safety Concerns  9  3.7%

 Data reflects comments received as of 9/1/06  


SIZE, SPEED AND SOUND:
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN LIGHT RAIL AND COMMUTER RAIL

Three types of rail technology are being evaluated for the Gold Line. Most residents of the Denver metro area are familiar with one of the technologies, Light Rail Transit (LRT), as it operates on RTD's existing rail system. The Gold Line is also evaluating two types of commuter rail trains with which you may be less familiar: Diesel Multiple Units (DMU), a diesel-powered passenger train, and Electrical Multiple Units (EMU), an electrically powered passenger train. 

Light Rail Transit (LRT) is powered by overhead electrical wires. It has a slightly smaller frame, weighs significantly less than commuter trains and is able to make tighter turns than the larger EMUs and DMUs. Each light rail train can have up to four cars, each of which has a capacity of approximately 64 seats.

Commuter rail trains like EMU and DMU are generally larger than light rail (see chart below). EMU and DMU can operate within the same right of way as freight trains, because commuter rail provides significantly more safety and protection for passengers in the event of an accident with a freight train.

EMUs, like Light Rail Transit (LRT), are powered by overhead electrical wires, whereas DMUs are self-powered by a diesel motor. Since light rail and EMUs are powered electrically, their emissions are generated at the plants that provide the electricity. DMUs, on the other hand, generate on-site emissions from the engines of
the train. EMUs and DMUs have a greater seating capacity than Light Rail Transit (LRT). Due to their size and power source, DMUs take slightly longer than light rail to accelerate and decelerate, whereas EMUs can speed up and slow down almost as quickly as LRT.

During the scoping period, the Union Pacific railroad informed RTD that they would not permit light rail to operate in their right of way. Commuter rail trains, like EMU and DMU, would be permitted to operate in the Right of Way.  This does not mean that LRT is off the table for the Gold Line. Light Rail Transit (LRT) is still being evaluated on proposed alignments that are not within Union Pacific's right of way. During the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), RTD will evaluate each type of transit technology on characteristics like noise, air quality, cost and functionality to determine the preferred alternative for the corridor. 

 Technology Average Seats Per Car   Average Width  Average Height Average Cost Per Seat 
 Light Rail 64  9 feet  11 feet   $47-55K 
EMU 90  10.5 feet 14.5 feet $20K
DMU 80  10.5 feet 14.5 feet $34K
Data reflects single-level EMU and DMU trains.



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