DENVER — The Regional Transportation District (RTD) is fast approaching the deadline for a proposed fix to ongoing crossing gate issues on the A Line commuter rail system between Union Station and Denver International Airport.
RTD and its contractor, Denver Transit Partners (DTP), have until Saturday to submit a solution to federal regulators or risk having service suspended. In a statement to Denver7, RTD said it will meet that deadline.
The countdown started Nov. 15 with a letter from Robert Lauby, chief safety officer at the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). In that letter, he called the ongoing failure of RTD and DTP to provide warning times at its crossing within federally mandated ranges “unacceptable.” During the week of Aug. 13 alone, he said, inspectors from his agency “identified 63 instances of warning times outside the acceptable ranges allowed under the waiver.”
In a statement to Denver7, RTD’s legal team said, “(It) will do everything possible to ensure that the plan is accepted and implemented such that our service is not impacted.” The FRA’s request does not require an immediate solution, rather “a schedule demonstrating RTD's commitment to bring its grade crossing warning systems on the A, B, and G Lines into compliance within one year," the statement reads.
RTD’s contractor for the line, DTP, told Denver7 the process to come up with a solution has been “very collaborative.” RTD and DTP plan to review the response to the FRA again Friday morning. DTP said, “We are on track to submit a response to the FRA’s 11/15/18 letter, including an action plan, that they will accept tomorrow.”
Even as the FRA deadline approaches, RTD still increased capacity on the A Line. RTD said the capacity issues is separate from the timing issues. A spokesperson said the A Line’s ridership numbers have already reached estimates for 2020. By adding four more cars, RTD is doubling its capacity. RTD also reassured its riders that, “our train to Denver International Airport, is safe, clean, comfortable, fast and reliable, with a 97 percent on-time performance rate – which explains why it has proven so popular and why we’re increasing capacity to meet demand.”
Timeline of Issues
April 2016 - RTD and DTP have paid for human flaggers to provide extra security at all crossing since the A Line opened, after state and federal regulators first noticed timing issues. RTD has previously estimated the cost of those flaggers at several million dollars per month.
October 2016 - RTD decided to stop testing on the G Line, connecting Wheat Ridge and Arvada to downtown Denver, because of the ongoing timing issues.
January 2018 - Testing on the G Line resumed, but no date has been set for the line to finally be finished and opened to the public.
April 2018 – RTD riders recount being stuck on the A line for four hours to Contact7 Investigates.
July 2018 – RTD started removing human flaggers from the A Line, only to have them added back after noticing a glitch at some gates. ().
August 2018 – Residents near the G line complained to Contact7 about loud horns 24 hours per day. As a result, RTD modified its testing hours.
October 2018 – RTD threatens to terminate its contract with DTP over ongoing G Line delays.