Peak Service Exploration: Northwest Rail

History of FasTracks

The RTD FasTracks project is the nation’s largest transit expansion project, promising to build and operate high-speed commuter and light rail lines while also expanding and improving bus service and Park-n-Rides throughout the Denver metro region. FasTracks was voter approved in 2004 and includes the following commitments:

  • 122 miles of new light rail and commuter rail
  • 18 miles of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) service
  • 57 new transit stations
  • 21,213 additional parking spaces at Park-n-Ride stations
  • Enhanced bus service and FastConnects throughout the region

However, due to unexpected funding issues and the recession in 2008, the Northwest Rail line, which would connect Denver to Longmont, has yet to be completed beyond the South Westminster Station. While there may not be funds to complete the entire commuter rail line until 2040, RTD along with regional partners has committed to exploring Peak Service for the rail line.

 

 

Peak Service Options

The proposed service plan for peak service is to have three trains during the peak morning commute hours and three trains during the peak evening commute hours.

Commitment to Northwest Rail

In March 2019, the US 36 Mayors & Commissioners Coalition released a letter reconfirming their commitment to Northwest Rail and Peak Service exploration. The RTD Board of Directors voted on April 16 to approve a resolution to completed the FasTracks obligations and pursue Peak Service exploration for Northwest Rail. This would include Option 1A: three trains in morning peak travel time from Longmont to Denver and three trains in evening peak travel time from Denver to Longmont.

Resources

RTD FasTracks Northwest Rail Fact Sheet
 Directions from the US 36 Bikeway to Westminster Station
RTD FasTracks B Line Fact Sheet
RTD FasTracks Unfinished Corridor Report

Rocky Mountain Rail Proposal

In late 2019, RTD received an unsolicited proposal from Rocky Mountain Rail regarding the completion and operation of Northwest Rail, the currently unfunded FasTracks project that would bring a commuter rail line from Union Station in Denver to Longmont. Over the course of January 2020, the company hosted several public meetings throughout the northwest metro region to discuss their plans and answer questions about their proposal Rocky Mountain Rail is proposing an arrangement similar to the Denver Transit Partner’s arrangement with RTD for several of the existing commuter line.

The proposal includes the operation of hourly express trains between Denver Union Station to five cities in the northwest metro region, combined with local train service for a total of 10 trains an hour to Denver Union Station. The proposal also includes the construction of 16 stations along the line which would be funded by charging the cities and RTD tap feeds. In order to make these proposals possible, Rocky Mountain Rail would purchase the existing tracks from BNSF for $300-$700 million.

Rocky Mountain Rail has projected 64,000 daily boardings for the rail line with an operating budget of $5 a mile. To achieve such low operating costs, they would use battery powered trains and would generate some of the electricity needed using perpetual motion machines constructed alongside the tracks.

Commuting Solutions and the US 36 Mayors & Commissioners Coalition are tracking the progress of the proposal. We support any viable proposal to accelerate the completion of Northwest Rail, following in the current lack of available funding through FasTracks to complete the project. We are aware of multiple plans which will explore the provision of passenger rail to communities currently without service, including the efforts of the Front Range Rail Commissioner, the Colorado Department of Transportation’s I-25 Planning and Environmental Linkages Study and the above proposal. The Coalition will continue to discuss and evaluate how the Rocky Mountain Rail proposal meets the needs of our community, after receiving and reviewing it’s specifics including funding mechanism. Currently RTD is reviewing the proposal to determine its merit and validity.