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Fall 2008 Newsletter
Gold Line Team Makes Key Project Recommendations
As RTD begins to prepare the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the Gold Line, the project team recently made several key recommendations. Among these was the selection of the "East Direct" alignment option, as well as the recommendation of preferred locations for the 38th Avenue and Pecos stations.
Gold Line Alignment Finalized
The Gold Line is proposed to run along the BNSF/Union Pacific railroad route from Denver Union Station to Ward Road in Wheat Ridge, passing through northwest Denver, Adams County and Arvada. In the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), RTD evaluated two different options to get from Denver Union Station to Pecos. Recently, RTD selected the East Direct design option for this portion of the Gold Line, which runs adjacent to the east side of the railroad property. This decision means that the Railroad Alignment, which would have run within the railroad right-of-way from Denver Union Station to Pecos, has been eliminated from further consideration. The decision was made due to railroad company concerns that FasTracks commuter rail projects would interfere with their freight operations in this area.
This 3.5 mile section of the alignment will be shared by the Gold Line and Northwest Rail (the FasTracks project connecting downtown Denver to Boulder and Longmont). West of Pecos, the Gold Line will continue within the BNSF and Union Pacific railroad alignments to the end-of-line station at Ward Road.
Preferred Station Locations Identified
The project team also recently recommended preferred locations for the last of the Gold Line stations with multiple options: the 38th Avenue station and the Pecos station. Preferred station locations had already been selected for the other Gold Line stations, which are located at Federal, Sheridan, Olde Town, Arvada Ridge and Ward Road.
The Gold Line Team is recommending the 41st Avenue East Option (located at 41st and Fox) for the 38th Avenue Station. Three station options were considered for the 38th Avenue Station: the Railroad Alignment Option, the 39th Avenue East Option and the 41st Avenue East Option. The Railroad Route Option was eliminated since it has been determined that the Gold Line will not run within the railroad right of way in this area. In considering the 41st and 39th options, a number of factors led to the selection of the 41st location. Unlike the 39th option, 41st would have no historic impacts -- an important criteria for securing necessary project approvals. The 41st option would also require fewer properties, have fewer traffic impacts, provide better bus access and is considered to be more favorable to potential transit-oriented development. The 41st option also had greater agency and public support, based on the comments received on the Gold Line Draft Environmental Impact Statement.
Between the two options for the Pecos Station -- Pecos East and Pecos West -- RTD is recommending the Pecos East option. The community and Adams County have always expressed overwhelming support for the Pecos East option, because of its ability to provide direct transfers to Northwest Rail (the FasTracks project connecting downtown Denver to Boulder and Longmont). However, the Pecos East station option is only possible if a bridge is built to elevate Pecos Street over the existing railroad tracks. Adams County and the Union Pacific Railroad are committed to beginning this project as early as the summer of 2009. RTD plans to include both options in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), while identifying the Pecos East station option as the Preferred Alternative. RTD and Adams County are working together to make the official selection.
The Gold Line Team is in the process of gathering public input on their recommendations during Station Access and Design Issue-Focused Team meetings, which are being held throughout October and early November. During these meetings, the Gold Line team and members of the public have been discussing station access plans for pedestrian, bus and vehicular traffic, as well as preliminary design concepts. This input will be used to develop the station recommendations for the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS).
Gold Line DEIS Wins Excellence Award
The Gold Line Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) was recently selected as the first-ever recipient of the Federal Transit Administration's Outstanding Achievement Award for Excellence in Environmental Document Preparation. The award recognizes exemplary efforts in preparing effective and practical environmental documents for the public and decision-makers. This is the first time that the FTA has given out this honor. RTD accepted the award earlier this month at the annual meeting of the American Public Transit Association.
Over 80 DEIS Comments Received
The 45-day public comment period for the Gold Line Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) ended on September 1, 2008. More than 80 DEIS comments were received on a wide range of issues. The most frequently mentioned topic in the DEIS comments was stations, as stakeholders submitted input on everything from parking and traffic to pedestrian and bicycle access. Other popular DEIS comment issues included noise and the need for a Quiet Zone, bus operations and how they will be reconfigured for the Gold Line and the aesthetics of the project -- particularly around Olde Town Arvada.
FEIS to be Released in Early 2009
RTD is now hard at work completing the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), which is scheduled for release in early 2009. The FEIS will include responses to all DEIS comments, as well as technical modifications to update the document and more detailed engineering. Once published, the final document will be submitted to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) for approval. RTD plans to receive the final decision document from the FTA by spring of next year. Construction on the Gold Line is anticipated to begin by 2011, with the line opening to the public planned for 2016.
RTD Tackles Budget Challenges, Develops New Options to Deliver FasTracks
RTD is among the many public entities across the nation being affected by current economic conditions. As you have likely seen in the media, the FasTracks program is dealing with unprecedented increases in commodity costs (e.g. steel, concrete, fuel) and inflation, combined with a decrease in projected revenue from sales taxes. Because of these challenges, RTD is considering modifying the assumptions for long-term revenues and costs, while developing new options for delivering the
Each year, RTD conducts an Annual Program Evaluation to comprehensively evaluate the entire FasTracks program. This year's Annual Program Evaluation revealed significantly reduced projected sales and tax revenues -- a $2.8 billion decrease from original projections. The evaluation also estimated that it could cost as much as $7.9 billion to build FasTracks by 2017 if costs continue to increase at the rates now assumed.
The 2007 Gold Line budget was estimated at $552.5 million in year-of-expenditure (YOE) dollars, but latest estimates show that costs have grown to $667 million. About two-thirds of this $114.5 million cost increase is attributed to increases in commodities and inflation, while the remaining third was caused by railroad requirements.
Even though costs have risen dramatically, RTD is committed to developing solutions to keep FasTracks moving forward. At 15 public meetings throughout September and October, the FasTracks team presented several options for addressing budget issues. One potential solution is to build only what can be afforded by 2017, which could mean shortening or eliminating some lines. Another option is to build some of FasTracks by 2017 and to then build the rest of the system over time as revenue allows. RTD is also evaluating the possibility of seeking additional revenue sources in order to maintain the original FasTracks scope and schedule.
For all the options being considered, the Gold Line would be completed by 2016, since the Gold Line and the East Corridor (the FasTracks line to DIA) are both the most eligible corridors for federal and private funding.
A summary of community input will be provided to the RTD Board at their meeting in early November. RTD will then conduct public opinion surveys on the feedback received to date, while the board refines the various options and solutions for implementing FasTracks. After reviewing all public input and recommendations from regional agencies, the board will select an implementation plan by the end of March 2009. More information on the various options being considered is available online.
Gold Line Safety 101: Q&A with the Gold Line Project Manager
Safety has always been a top priority for RTD, and it is a key driver for many of the decisions that are made by the Gold Line project team. We sat down with Gold Line project manager Liz Telford to discuss the ways that RTD will ensure the safe integration of the Gold Line into surrounding communities.
Q: How will RTD ensure that the Gold Line is safely integrated into the community?
A: RTD uses several methods to help ensure the safety of the community. Safety is essential, but we strive to achieve it with as few impacts as possible to nearby communities. Our projects meet or exceed all required safety regulations. For pedestrians, safety measures could include fencing, gates, flashing lights and other warning systems at crossings. All of these help prevent people from crossing the tracks when a train is coming. For vehicles and bicyclists, numerous safety measures will be considered, including fencing and quad gates (gates that block the entire intersection, instead of only one lane). We're also considering computerized signaling at some intersections to alert train operators to potential hazards on the tracks ahead.
Q: Is fencing necessary along the entire Gold Line corridor?
A: Yes. For safety purposes, we have to create a barrier between the Gold Line alignment and surrounding property. This prevents anyone from accidentally wandering into an active commuter-rail corridor, which would be very dangerous to the individual and train passengers.
Q: How will you select the type of fencing that is used along the Gold Line corridor?
A: Over the coming months, our project team will be partnering with local governments to determine which type of fencing will correspond best with existing local land uses. Together, we'll evaluate RTD-approved fencing options and their relation to local land uses, and we'll make a collaborative fencing recommendation. If local governments wish to fund enhancements to the RTD-approved fencing options, RTD will work with them to identify options that ensure the safety of passengers and the community. We will then present these recommendations to local communities, late this year or early next year.
Q: Will the Gold Line cause delays for emergency responders?
A: No. For every project, RTD meets with emergency responders, including representatives from police, fire and ambulance services, to review our plans with them and ensure that our project does not significantly delay emergency-response times.