History of the West Rail Line
The first published plan for mass transit in Denver in the early 1970s indicated that a solution was needed to better connect Denver and Golden, an area commonly called the West Corridor. Since then, RTD has completed a number of studies to look at various options for this area. In 1988, RTD purchased the Associated Rail line along 13th Avenue for future transit use. To see more on the History of the West Corridor visit our West Rail Line History page.
Major Investment Study (1997 - 1999)
The Major Investment Study (MIS) for the West Corridor was completed in 1997, and concluded that LRT along the old Associated Railroad and Denver Interurban Transit Line adjacent to 13th Avenue provided the most transportation benefit with the fewest negative impacts to the community. This alignment, known as the Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA), was based on input from neighborhood residents, businesses and local elected officials and adopted by the RTD Board and later the Denver Regional Council of Governments.
Environmental Impact Statement/Preliminary Engineering (2001 - 2004)
In June 2001, RTD kicked off a comprehensive study to consider the positive as well as negative impacts of light rail from Denver to Golden (known as the Locally Preferred Alternative or LPA) along the old Associated Railroad and Denver Interurban Transit Line. The finished product of this study is the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The goal of the EIS is to understand the technical, environmental and community challenges and opportunities associated with using light rail to mitigate the tremendous growth and congestion expected in the West Corridor over the coming decades. Since one of the key criteria used to evaluate this project is its cost effectiveness, Preliminary Engineering (PE) is conducted at the same time as the EIS in order to develop a much better cost estimate for construction, implementation and operation of the light rail system extension and roadway improvements.
Throughout the EIS public involvement process, RTD held over 158 meetings, including public meetings and small group briefings. The Final EIS was submitted to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) in late 2003. The FTA issued a Record of Decision (ROD) in April 2004 which finalized the EIS process.
Funding for the West Corridor was solidified with the passage of the FasTracks ballot initiative in November 2004, along with five other new rapid transit corridors, three extensions of existing corridors, the redevelopment of Union Station, the addition of over 21,000 new parking spaces and a revised bus feeder system.
Final Design (2005-2008)
Final design began in fall 2005 when David Evans and Associates won the bid for West Corridor design. It was also determined that the West Corridor would be built using the Construction Manager/General Contractor delivery method so Denver Transit Construction Group was brought on board in 2006 to give their construction viewpoint to the design process.
In early 2005 railroads collectively changed their operating requirements. That meant no new light rail lines could be built adjacent to freight rail lines. Therefore the Gold Line corridor was changed from light rail to commuter rail and the maintenance facility, planned to service both the West Rail Line and Gold Line, was eliminated and the existing Elati light rail maintenance facility was expanded to service the West Corridor light rail vehicles.
The public was very involved during design through the Urban Design Committee and public meetings, as well as small group meetings where a variety of issues were discussed and questions answered.
Unfortunately, it was during this time that the economy continued to spiral downward and material cost increases were on a steep rise. Due to these conditions there were a series of Value Engineering/Scope Deferment exercises that were conducted and a number of items were changed along the corridor. Due to the large number of changes, an Environmental Assessment (EA) was required by the Federal Transit Administration to document and assess the changes. The EA was prepared in 2007 and the final Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) was issued by FTA November 2007.
Early Construction (2007-2008)
The FTA issued a Letter of No Prejudice (LONP) which allowed RTD to start early construction in a few areas including the Kipling light rail bridge and bulk ordering of rail, ties and steel. RTD broke ground for the first time on the FasTracks program when the West Corridor began construction May 16, 2007 with removal of the old trolley tracks along 13th Avenue, followed by the relocation of utilities along the line.
Full Funding and Construction 2009
The West Corridor received its Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) from the Federal Transit Administration on January 16, 2009 for $308 million, putting in place the final piece of West Corridor funding. Denver Transit Construction Group (DTCG) prepared their final bid with a Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP) in March, and following negotiations, the formal Notice to Proceed (NTP) with full construction was issued to DTCG in June 2009.
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