Frequently Asked Questions
We answer all of the questions we receive about the Northwest Rail Line Environmental Evaluation (EE). 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?
RTD's current plans are to implement the project as scheduled in the FasTracks plan. The first segment, from Denver Union Station to south Westminster, will be built as part of the Eagle P3 project. Construction will begin on this segment in 2012 with an opening day anticipated for 2016.
In addition, construction on the end-of-line Downtown Longmont Station will begin in 2012. The remaining segment of the project, from south Westminster to Longmont, will require additional funding to be completed. If additional funding becomes available in 2012, the Northwest Rail Line will be complete by 2020. If no additional funding becomes available, the project will be completed by 2042.
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
• Walnut Creek 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 Environmental Evaluation.
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. Click here to go to the Project Schedule.
Are public workshops the only time the public can submit input?
No. Although public workshops provide great opportunities to interact with the project team and learn more about the Northwest Rail Line, your input can also be submitted in writing to Liz Viscardi, RTD-FasTracks, 1560 Broadway #700, Denver, CO 80202, or by clicking here.
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 required for 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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