Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Railroads Shuffling Denver Light Rail Plans

While Denver's RTD puts the finishing touches on its new Southeast Corridor line, both major Class I railroads serving Denver are having some sway over future plans under FasTracks. According to a September 9th article in the Rocky Mountain News,
The BNSF railroad, which owns tracks through Arvada and Wheat Ridge that RTD wants to use for FasTracks, has told the transit agency it won't allow light-rail train cars to operate in the same right of way as its freight trains.
The beer line, called so because it serves the Coors brewery in Golden, would need to be served by diesel or electric commuter rail, which railroad officials deem as more protective in a crash. This contradicts studies that recommended light rail for the line, which is planned to run through Olde Town Arvada. The News continues,

BNSF's decision matches one made last year by the Union Pacific Railroad not to allow light rail in the Smith Road freight corridor that RTD plans to use for FasTracks train service to Denver International Airport.

The line to DIA is overdue. When DIA was nearly completed in 1995, a light rail/commuter rail line should have already been in place. The criticisms that DIA was built closer to Nebraska than Denver would have been lessened or removed. This week, the line to DIA has been recommended by the latest study to be electrified commuter rail. The Smith Road line is the Union Pacific's main line to the east of Denver, the former Kansas Pacific line that UP rehabilitated for more traffic only a few years ago. With this increase in freight, is it reasonable to expect commuter rail service to run on time to DIA?

Clearly, the railroads will choose what is in their best interest first, considering Denver and the public second. RTD will have a hard time selling them on light rail unless they run on separate rails, which would add much to the cost of either line, but ensure timely service for its patrons. Clearly, Amtrak has proven that passenger service on a freight road is secondary and completely unreliable as far as UP and BNSF are concerned. RTD and Denver ought to spring for the extra cost now for these lines. The success of dedicated right-of-way light rail has proven it can more than support the cost such an upgrade and service will be reliable and therefore very popular with their clients. The alternative is an unreliable service, which would scare most riders away.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi! My name is Deb and I work for AmTrak in Pennsylvania. I am thinking of relocating to the Denver area and I am looking for a job with a railroad. Can anybody be of assistance to me?