We answer all of the questions we receive about Northwest Rail Line. We also keep track of the questions you ask in order to better provide you with the information that you want about the study. Below are the answers to some of the more Frequently Asked Questions:
What is the Northwest Rail Line?
The Northwest Rail Line (NWR) is a 41-mile commuter rail project from
Denver Union Station to Longmont via Boulder, passing through Adams
County, Westminster, Broomfield, Louisville, Boulder and Longmont.
Commuter rail will operate along the existing BNSF Railway line. See the Northwest Rail Line Project Map here!
When will the Northwest Rail Line open?
The first segment, from Denver Union Station to south Westminster (around 71st & Lowell), is funded and is being built as part of the Eagle P3 project. Construction on this segment began in June 2012 with an opening day in 2016.
In addition, RTD committed $17 million to the end-of-line station in downtown Longmont. Construction will begin in 2015 and be completed in 2016.
The remaining segment of the project, from south Westminster to Longmont, will require additional funding to be completed. Starting in March 2013, the Northwest Area Mobility Study will determine the best best mobility options for the northwest communities, including phasing options and alternative alignments to Longmont. The study will be completed in early 2014.
Where will the rail stations be along the Northwest Rail Line?
The RTD FasTracks plan funds seven stations along the project:
• South Westminster/71st Ave Station
• Church Ranch Station
• Flatiron Station
• Downtown Louisville Station
• Boulder Transit Village
• Gunbarrel Station
• Downtown Longmont Station
Four stations (Westminster/88th Ave Station, Broomfield/116th Ave Station,
East Boulder Station at 63rd/Arapahoe, and the Twin Peaks Station in
Longmont) were added to the Northwest Rail Line at the request of the
local jurisdictions. RTD has stated that it cannot fund these stations,
but that it is willing to work with the local jurisdictions to determine
if these stations could potentially be constructed at a later time,
pending availability of funding. The Environmental Evaluation evaluated
these stations. Visit our Northwest Rail Line Stations page to learn more about the stations and review the preliminary station concept plans.
What is the purpose of the Northwest Rail Line Environmental Evaluation?
The purpose of the Northwest Rail Line Environmental Evaluation (EE) was to
identify the community and environmental impacts that may result from
the construction and implementation of commuter rail service along the
BNSF Railway from Denver to Longmont. It also recommended ways of
lessening those impacts in accordance with the National Environmental
Policy Act (NEPA). The EE incorporated the work previously accomplished
in the US 36 Environmental Impact Statement and the Longmont Diagonal
What has already been decided?
Through the previous studies, the decision was made to build a commuter rail
line along the existing BNSF Railway from Denver to Longmont, via
Boulder. In October 2007, RTD decided to use Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) commuter rail technology for the Northwest Rail Line (NWR). This decision was accompanied by RTD's adoption of the Responsible Rail Amendment
that, among other things, requires RTD to buy commuter rail vehicles
that rank high in environmental features, such as fuel efficiency and
low emissions, and have the flexibility to accommodate future
advancements, such as hybrid or clean-fuel systems. In February 2010,
RTD released the NWR Draft EE and in June 2010, the RTD Board approved
the Final EE, allowing the project to move forward with design and construction as funding becomes available through the FasTracks Program.
What vehicle technology is planned for use in the Northwest Rail Line?
Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) will be the commuter rail technology for the Northwest Rail Line.
What is the schedule for the EE and when can the public participate?
The EE was released in June 2010, however, public input was, and continues
to be, important to the success of the Northwest Rail Line environmental
study. We encourage you to use this site to learn about the project,
and we welcome your comments and feedback. RTD has conducted public
workshops at key study milestones to hear your feedback about the
study's findings and recommendations.
Why is an environmental study needed for the Northwest Rail Line? Hasn't
RTD already been studying the rail line for the several years?
RTD has examined both highway and rail improvements in the Denver-Boulder
section of the corridor in the past through the US 36 Environmental
Impact Statement (EIS) process. RTD has also examined rail improvements
in the Boulder-Longmont section of the corridor through the Longmont
Diagonal Rail Feasibility Study and the subsequent Longmont Diagonal
Rail Environmental Evaluation. The Northwest Rail Line Environmental
Evaluation combines data for both parts of the project into one document
for review by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Why isn't the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) the lead agency for this
project? Why is the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers the lead agency?
Federal regulations require the completion of an environmental study for major
transportation projects if there are federal funds involved or if a federal action or approval is required. In the case of the Northwest Rail Line, RTD does not anticipate seeking federal funds to help with construction. However, due to the presence of wetlands along the project, a federal action - in this case a wetlands permit - is requiredfor implementation. Therefore, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will
serve as the lead agency because it issues the wetlands permit.
How does this environmental study differ from one lead by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA)?
There are basically no differences between how environmental issues are
addressed, regardless of which agency leads the study. RTD is still
required to conduct a thorough environmental analysis and recommend
mitigation if adverse impacts cannot be avoided or minimized. In the
case of noise and vibration impacts, RTD will use FTA standards and
regulations to guide the mitigation of those specific types of impacts.
Additionally, the study must satisfy all National Environmental Policy
Act (NEPA) requirements. Therefore, for all intents and purposes, the
level of analysis and requirements that the study must meet are the same
as with any other FTA-lead environmental study.
How will the maintenance and layover facilities be addressed in the Environmental Evaluation?
RTD has studied a location northeast of downtown Denver for a central
commuter rail maintenance facility that would serve all FasTracks
commuter rail lines, including the Northwest Rail Line. Therefore, no
maintenance or layover facilities are being planned in the Northwest
Rail Line. Visit the RTD FasTracks Maintenance Facilities page to learn more about what's planned.
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