1. What is the Gold Line?
The Gold Line is an 11.2-mile electric commuter rail line that is part of the RTD FasTracks transit expansion program. The Gold Line will 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. The Gold Line and Northwest Rail (the FasTracks project that will connect downtown Denver to Boulder and Longmont) will share the alignment from Denver Union Station to Pecos Street. The project has seven stations planned, located at 41st, Pecos, Federal, Sheridan, Olde Town, Arvada Ridge and Ward Road.
2. When will construction begin on the Gold Line?
Construction of the Gold Line is projected to begin in 2012 with the line opening in 2016.
3. How will bus service change with the addition of the Gold Line?
For any new transit project, RTD must determine how the existing bus system should be optimized given the change in travel patterns that results from a new rail line. When deciding how to restructure its bus service, RTD will evaluate feeder service ("feeder" buses are the routes that feed or serve the rail stations) to connect the surrounding activity centers and communities to Gold Line stations, as well as regional connectivity and other adjustments that will best meet the changing travel needs and development patterns. Specific plans will be developed prior to opening day, but it's likely that many existing bus routes that run near the Gold Line stations will be diverted to provide better access. Additionally, there are likely to be some new routes added, while existing routes that provide service that is similar to the Gold Line rail service may be eliminated.
4.What role will the public have in decisions that are made now that the Gold Line Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is complete?
While the EIS is one of the final opportunities for the public to provide input on larger decisions, the public will have the opportunity to stay involved throughout final design and construction phases of the Gold Line. RTD will continue to keep stakeholders informed, and meetings may be held to gather input on specific topics of interest. However, it's important to note that opportunities for public input and participation change from phase to phase. Most opportunities for stakeholder involvement were provided during the planning phase of the Gold Line, since opportunities for change become more limited after planning has been completed and decisions have been made. This is why public comments typically have the most impact during the decision-making process leading up to the release of the Final EIS.
5. What is the process for purchasing private property needed for this project?
Plans for the Gold Line are constantly evolving as the project team finds new
ways to avoid impacts and improve efficiency. Per federal law, RTD is not permitted to formally begin negotiations with property owners until receiving final approval on the project from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) in the form of a Record of Decision. Now that the FTA has approved the project, RTD will soon begin notifying the landowners of properties that need to be purchased. Federal law requires that RTD provide fair market value appraisals, written offers, good faith negotiations and relocation benefits for properties that need to be purchased.
6. How will you mitigate noise impacts of the Gold Line?
As part of the Gold Line Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), the project team developed several avoidance, minimization and mitigation measures for potential noise impacts. As train horns are often the primary cause of noise impacts for a rail project, RTD is recommending the establishment of Quiet Zones in the areas of greatest potential impact. Quiet Zones are segments of railroad lines where freight and commuter train crews are exempt from sounding their horn at street crossing. The level of safety at intersections must be improved to a level that makes the area eligible for this designation. RTD is highly involved in assisting the local municipalities to qualify and apply for a Quiet Zone designation. RTD's noise analysis has shown that with the implementation of a Quiet Zone, noise impacts in the Gold Line corridor would be less than they are today -- even with the addition of the project. In areas where Quiet Zones are not recommended -- or if the Federal Railroad Administration and Public Utilities Commission deny the Quiet Zone application -- other mitigation measures are being considered.
7. I've heard that the Gold Line will be funded with a public-private partnership. How will this affect the project?
RTD is using a public-private partnership to help fund several FasTracks commuter rail projects, including the East Rail Line, the Commuter Rail Maintenance Facility and the Gold Line. Known as the Eagle P3, this public-private partnership program allows RTD to partner with the private sector to finance, design, build, operate and maintain several FasTracks projects under a single contract. In the public-private partnership agreement, RTD retains ownership of the system and will continue to set all of its operating and performance standards. The benefit is that the financial risk is largely shifted to the private partner. The private-sector partner was selected in summer of 2010 through a competitive proposal process. The concessionaire is Denver Transit Partners.
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