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West Rail Line Construction Summary

We are only ONE DAY away from the newest RTD light rail line – and first FasTracks corridor – opening to the public! RTD will commemorate the completion of the corridor tomorrow morning at 10:30 at the Jefferson County Government Center/City of Golden Station.

Time for a quick summary – this light rail corridor has been in the works for years as RTD bought the right-of-way in the 1980s. Funded as part of the voter-approved FasTracks initiative in 2004, this 12.1-mile, $707 million corridor will add about 5,000 parking spaces to the RTD park-n-ride network. The picture below gives a look at how RTD’s new light rail network maps will help guide passengers.

DenverUrbanism (and DenverInfill) have been covering the construction of the West Rail Line for a few years and it’s very exciting to see it almost complete. We’ve given a rundown to each station detailing design aspects and layouts. The 12 (11 new, 1 relocated) stations are listed below. For other non-station related information (bridges, economic impacts, etc), check out this link.

Auraria West Station (existing, but realigned and relocated for the West Rail Line) – 5th & Walnut Streets (no parking provided)


Decatur-Federal Station – Federal Boulevard & Howard Street (1,900 spaces)


Knox Station – Knox Court & 12th Avenue (no parking provided)


Perry Station – Perry Street & 12th Avenue (no parking provided)


Sheridan Station – Sheridan Boulevard & 12th Avenue (800 spaces)


Lamar Station – Lamar Street & 13th Avenue (no parking provided)


Lakewood – Wadsworth Station – Wadsworth Boulevard & 13th Avenue (1,000 spaces)


Garrison Station – Garrison Street & 13th Avenue (no parking provided)


Oak Station – Oak Street & 13th Avenue (200 spaces)


Federal Center Station – Routt Street & 2nd Place (1,000 parking spaces)


Red Rocks College Station – 6th Avenue Frontage Road & Arbutus Drive (no parking provided)


Jefferson County Government Center/City of Golden Station – 6th Avenue & Johnson Road (705 parking spaces)


The West Rail Line was constructed by Denver Transit Construction Group (DTCG) and Balfour Beatty Rail, Inc. Swinerton Builders constructed the garages at both the Sheridan and Lakewood-Wadsworth Stations. I’ve mentioned the economic impacts of the corridor, but I believe they bear repeating. Especially in economic times like we are all in right now, public infrastructure projects such as the West Rail Line (and the rest of the FasTracks project) have a HUGE, positive, and lasting economic impact.

  • Direct wages paid – $71,020,000
  • Equipment, materials, and supplies – $98,131,000
  • Subcontractors (60-98% hired locally) – $250,000,000
  • West Rail Line construction provided employment to over 755 people
Some various construction facts about the entire West Rail Line project:
  • 10 light rail bridges
  • 3 street bridges (Decatur, Federal, and Sheridan)
  • 2 light rail tunnels (Simms/Union and I-70)
  • 4 pedestrian structures (3 bridges, 1 tunnel)
  • 115 retaining walls with more than 10,000 feet of noise wall
  • 20 at-grade crossings
  • 9 miles of double-tracked (bi-directional) and 3 miles of single-tracked light rail

Everyone should check out the line this weekend – the weather will (finally) be great. The entire light rail system will be free Saturday with parties at most stations along the corridor throughout the day on Saturday. Click here for more information on station parties. For those who can’t make it out Saturday, take advantage of two free light rail tickets by liking RTD on Facebook. RTD has also finalized the schedules for the W Line – those can be found here.

It’s hard to believe that FasTracks was approved 8 1/2 years ago, but this is the first major project completed as part of that multi-billion dollar vote. RTD now has 81 miles of light rail and commuter rail either under construction or under contract, not to mention the work going on at Denver Union Station, the Commuter Rail Maintenance Facility, and US36. While the West Rail Line is huge in and of itself, it’s only one small piece of whats to come over the next three or four years throughout metro Denver.

Go west young man, go west.

West Rail Line Progress – Jefferson County Government Center/City of Golden Station

T-minus 5 days!!

Time to take a look at the last station on our newest light rail line. The Jefferson County Government Center/City of Golden Station (quite possibly the longest station name ever) is located just to the south of the famed “Taj Mahal” Jeffco Courthouse at 6th Avenue and Johnson Road.

The station has a 705-space parking garage next to the platform for passengers. The garage is one of the nicest looking garages that RTD has constructed and it meshes very well with the architectural style of the nearby courthouse. The garage is ready for opening day – the spaces are already striped.




RTD has provided both racks and lockers for those who will be arriving or departing the station on their bikes. Easy connections to the Highway 93 bike path are ready to go to the north of the station as well.


One of the coolest features of this station is the tunnel created by constructing the garage over the tracks and into the hill to the west. The train come in on the first level of the parking garage, making this the only station in RTD’s light rail network where you can park above the train. Makes for some pretty interesting and unique sight lines as well.

Another very cool feature of this station is the fabricated concrete retaining wall to the west of the station. This was molded and painted to look like rock – I think they did an amazing job. There were several people fooled on the test trains I’ve ridden on.


DenverUrbanism will be West Rail Line-centric this coming week as we approach the opening. We’ll be taking a look at the history of the West Rail Line with Shawn Snow from History Colorado. Derek Berardi will give us a look at how some can live life without a car and focus solely on transit (including light rail). Ryan Dravitz will help us coast through biking along the West Rail Line. I’ll give a construction summary and what this light rail corridor could mean for the west side of metro Denver. Ken Schroeppel and Robert Wilson will keep us plugged in on the grand opening ceremonies and everything that goes on during the upcoming free fare day (April 27th). Make sure to check DenverUrbanism for the latest on the West Rail Line over the next week!

West Rail Line Progress – Indiana Bridge

Time to take a look at the massive Indiana Bridge over 6th Avenue! Only 6 DAYS until opening!

This bridge is MASSIVE. We’ve taken a look at the bridge before in this DenverInfill post, but it’s time for a final update.

This bridge is located in the single-track section of the West Rail Line on the approach to the Jefferson County Government Center/City of Golden Station. The trains will be running east and west intermittently along these tracks once the corridor opens next week.


The bridge is made of both concrete and steel and is the longest bridge on the corridor, spanning 1,531 feet. The 11-span bridge uses three independent construction frames – the first and third (those spanning the onramps) use a post-tensioned concrete box girder system while the middle span uses three steel plate girders. The center span over 6th Avenue is the longest single span in the corridor, reaching 270 feet. Notice the lack of ballast (rocks) on the bridge – this is done to make the bridge lighter. The tracks are directly fixed to the concrete. This bridge is only 20 feet wide.




The tallest columns are over 40 feet high, which allows for future construction of a ramp between 6th Avenue to I-70. Like the 6th Avenue Bridge, the Indiana Bridge uses the same “weathering steel” which will rust to a dark purple/brown color.  The 7.2 million pound bridge took 48,000 cubic feet of concrete and 128,000 feet of steel post-tensioning strand to complete. The steel in the frame weighs over 890,000 pounds – that’s 445 tons!!


This bridge is high above 6th and even higher above Indiana Avenue. If you’re afraid of heights, you may want to close your eyes as you travel across the bridge.


This bridge features a unique construction method. There are rubber ties at either end of the bridge. Of to 40,000 or so railroad ties along the new West Rail Line, about 200 of them are made of recycled rubber. These ties are being tested to see whether they will help spread the weight of the light rail trains out to avoid compaction and settling at the ends of bridges. For more information on these recycled rubber ties, check out this Denver Post article.


Tomorrow, we will take a look at the Jefferson County Government Center/City of Golden Station, the end of the West Rail Line.

West Rail Line Progress – Red Rocks College Station

ONE WEEK (still)! Two posts in one day – I know. We have a lot to cover on the West Rail Line prior to opening.

The Red Rocks College Stations is located about 1/2 mile (walking distance) north of the campus at the 6th Avenue Frontage Road and Arbutus Drive. The station has no parking, but there are bus bays located just to the south of the station.

This station reminds me of those along the Southeast Rail Line and I-25 in that its pretty loud. Obviously, being next to a highway will do that.



Sidewalks have been constructed along the 6th Avenue Frontage Road to help connect the neighborhoods directly to the west to the station. For those not familiar with the area, the frontage road used to have no sidewalks, making for a very treacherous and dangerous pedestrian environment.


There is only one main entrance into the station area on the east end of the platform. RTD has constructed a pretty burly fence on the southern end of the station to prevent passengers from jumping the tracks to access the frontage road. However, in emergency events, RTD has constructed an emergency exit on the western end of the platform, accessible through a push gate. Don’t attempt to use it unless it’s an actual emergency as an alarm will sound.


The station has great views to the west as well as of the Indiana Bridge over 6th Avenue.

Tomorrow, we will take an in-depth look at that Indiana Bridge (not for those afraid of heights) and Sunday we will check out the Jefferson County Government Center – City of Golden Station.

West Rail Line Progress – Federal Center Station

We are down to ONE WEEK until the West Rail Line opening!

The Federal Center Station replaced the old Cold Springs Park-n-Ride at 6th Avenue and Union Boulevard. The old park-n-ride had to be demolished to make way for the light rail line as it travels through a tunnel beneath Union just south of 6th. The park-n-ride was relocated in 2011 to make way for construction. The new 1,000 space Federal Center Park-n-Ride is located just east of Union Boulevard on 2nd Place.

The light rail station has three platforms to allow for some W-line trains to turn back into downtown as not every train heading out west will travel all the way to the Jefferson County Government Center/City of Golden Station. The third track allows for this movement to occur.



The station has several bus bays for existing bus routes. These routes will be realigned once the West Rail Line opens next week to better utilize RTD resources. The bus routes will be displayed via electronic message boards we can see at other RTD stations. For more information on how the bus routes will be realigned, check out this link.


The Federal Center Station boasts the same amenities as we’ve seen along the rest of the corridor.


The station and park-n-ride is located directly north of the newly relocated St. Anthony’s Hospital, providing excellent access to a major medical institution. This will certainly be a major station along the West Rail Line.

Next we will take a look at the Red Rocks College Station as we approach opening day next week.

West Rail Line Progress – Decatur-Federal Station

Only 15 days until opening!!

The Decatur-Federal Station is the first station west of I-25 along the West Rail Line. Located just south of Sports Authority Field at Mile High, the station is an easy trek to the stadium by foot. There are also easy connections to the multiple bus routes running along both Federal and Colfax Avenues. The station will have 1,900 spaces (leased from the stadium district) when it opens at the end of the month – an unbelievably high number with the station being located so close to downtown.

Parking concerns aside, let’s take a look at the how station turned out. As some may remember, the last time we looked at the Decatur-Federal Station was January of last year – what a change!

The first thing most will notice is the large plaza just north of the platform which will obviously be VERY busy come game days this fall (assuming the Broncos don’t go the way of the Rockies or Avalanche). This station joins the Sports Authority Field at Mile High Station as the only two stations in RTD’s light rail network with turnstiles to control passengers crowds during crush boarding times.




The station features many of the same urban design elements we will see along the rest of the corridor.


As I mentioned earlier, there are easy connections west to both sides of Federal Boulevard, thanks to an underpass beneath the newly rebuilt Federal bridge, which we discussed a few years back once construction was beginning. The bridge was reconstructed with bus drop-off lanes on both sides of the bridge to better serve passengers and keep them out of harms way by removing a crossing at Federal and 13th. Also, the underpass beneath Federal has a slick mural by Jolt, a graffiti artist. The West Rail Line had no money for public art, but the City and County of Denver was able to secure funding from the Urban Arts Alliance for the mural. RTD worked closely with the Denver Division of Theatres and Arenas to work on installation of the mural.



As with other RTD light rail stations, bikes are welcome. This stations has 10 bike lockers as well bike racks.


The station, although nestled near a busy thoroughfare (as well as a lovely power plant), is one of the most scenic stations in RTD’s system.



For kicks, the last image I have to show you is of some (I believe) poorly placed grass. Any bets on how long this grass will last? I bet it’ll be trampled down pretty well come the end of the Broncos preseason. Yes, I get grass is cheap and looks fine (when it’s not dead), but come on…we couldn’t put in something else? Nothing against Broncos fans, but I don’t see this grass lasting long.

Next time, we will jump west and take a look at the Federal Center Station – one of the largest stations on the West Rail Line. Also, RTD has posted information about festivities for opening weekend – free rides the 26th and 27th with station parties the 27th!

West Rail Line Progress – Economic Benefits and Operational Testing!

Only 31 days until opening!!

We will continue the station tours in the coming weeks prior to opening, but for the time being, take a look at a video posted of the West Rail Line showing how the ride will look. This was taken by KUNC and posted on their YouTube page.

It is an indisputable fact that domestic infrastructure projects – such as the West Rail Line – are an economic generator. Direct and indirect jobs are created, wages are paid, land values change – many, many people benefit. The West Rail Line is a prime example of this. Here are some quick economic impact facts about the West Corridor, courtesy of RTD.

  • Direct wages paid – $71,020,000
  • Equipment, materials, and supplies – $98,131,000
  • Subcontractors (60-98% hired locally) – $250,000,000
  • West Rail Line construction provided employment to over 755 people
Some various construction facts about the entire West Rail Line project:
  • 10 light rail bridges
  • 3 street bridges (Decatur, Federal, and Sheridan)
  • 2 light rail tunnels (Simms/Union and I-70)
  • 4 pedestrian structures (3 bridges, 1 tunnel)
  • 115 retaining walls with more than 10,000 feet of noise wall
  • 20 at-grade crossings
  • 9 miles of double-tracked (bi-directional) and 3 miles of single-tracked light rail
There’s no denying it – the West Rail Line will be HUGE. While it isn’t projected to be RTD’s busiest corridor, think of all of the people on the west side of town who will very, very soon be served by a reliable, clean, and safe mode of transit. It’s been a decade in the making, but the West Rail Line is almost done. Also, for those looking to join in RTD’s West Rail Line grand opening celebrations on April 26 and 27, check out RTD’s West Rail Line website for more information.

West Corridor Progress – Oak Station

Time for us to take a look at the Oak Station! Only 69 days until opening!!

The Oak Station is located at 13th Place and Oak Street in Lakewood. The area is predominantly residential to the south and east while retail exists to the north with industrial uses to the west. There is a lot of redevelopment potential around this station as large tracts of former retail (abandoned Circuit City store and various car dealerships) sit idle, awaiting their next life.

As with the other stations along the corridor, the Oak Station has a very different design scheme than we are used to from other RTD light rail stations (these pictures were taken in the fall when construction was complete, so don’t let the leaves and green grass throw you off).


There will be a large landscaped plaza-esque area just to the north of the light rail platform. Crews were completing landscaping efforts, as seen in the photos below. RTD estimates upwards of 1,300 people will utilize this station daily by 2030.



Immediately north of the plaza and station platform are the station’s four bus bays. The routes that will serve this station include the 16 and the 100.


The station also has 200 surface spaces located directly north of the station across 13th Place. The parking lot is easily accessible through a crosswalk installed across 13th Place. The bike lockers are also located on the north side of 13th Place, but south of the parking lot. For bike enthusiasts, take heed in that RTD placed them there for security reasons (away from the platform). There will be bike racks on the south side of 13th Place to the eastern end of the platform/plaza area near Oak Street.



I like showing before and after comparisons, so here’s a look at the progression of the Oak Station over the last few years.



Next time we will take a look at the Federal Center Station, site of the largest park-n-ride along the corridor as well as the relocated St. Anthony’s Hospital. For those along the corridor, keep in mind that RTD has begun integrated testing and trains will be active and moving along the corridor. It’s time we all get used to seeing them in action and remaining mindful of the all at-grade crossings.

West Corridor Progress – 6th Avenue Bridge Lighting

I know it’s a bit out of order – and we’ll get to see the Oak Station here in the next days – but RTD turned on the lights at the 6th Avenue Bridge for the first time last night in front of a crowd of 300 or so. Thanks to the folks at RTD for the pictures as my camera doesn’t take very good nighttime shots.


The 1.2 million pound (600 ton) bridge is at the site of a past at-grade crossing across 6th Avenue, which I understand was in place until the mid-1980s! The lighting scheme is permanent and will be on nightly, thanks to LED lights positioned across the bridge. The lights have a lifespan of about 100,000 hours (or 11 years). These babies shouldn’t be burning out anytime soon. For more detailed information on the bridge, check out this past blog post from our initial tour along the corridor.

Opening is just 91 short days away!