Last time we checked in with FasTracks, we caught a glimpse of full speed testing for the A-Line. Now, with exactly two months until its grand opening, we can start to see the elements of this huge transit project finishing up. For this post, we are going to visit the 38th and Blake commuter rail station, with a healthy load of pictures.
Let’s start out with photos of the station itself. Here we can see some notable differences right off the bat. The overhead catenary system is much more robust than the light-rail system we are all used to seeing. The tracks are also lowered to allow level boarding on the commuter rail vehicles.
So how did we get down on the tracks for these photos? At each end, there are track-level crossings to get to each side of the station. There is also a pedestrian bridge to get you across, which we will cover in depth later this week.
The 38th and Blake station is the first stop outside of Downtown Denver to get to the airport. We were very lucky to have a clear day, and a double stacked freight train parked right outside the station.
Outside of the commuter rail station, great improvements have been made to the pedestrian environment. Wider sidewalks and sheltered bike parking are two significant improvements.
Need I say more? New train stations are exciting!
You could say I had a great time taking photos around this station.
I’m sure I am the first to lay down on the yellow caution line and take this unique perspective of the station.
In two months, the 38th and Blake station will be fully operational, helping service trains to Denver International Airport. We, here at DenverUrbanism, couldn’t be more excited!
Also, that area of dirt in photos 7 and 8 is where the downtown light rail will terminate.
photos 7 and 8 show the end of the line of the future “central” rail line that will link the current Welton street line to the 38th and Blake station via Downing Street
How do you get between the platforms? Do you have to cross over the tracks, or is there an underpass/overpass?
There’s a pedestrian bridge on the north side of the station as well as two crossings across the tracks at each end. There are warning signals and gates for the track crossings.
RTD has yet to announce any plans for finishing the Central Line to 38th and Blake — which could make it potentially a very heavily-used transfer station. It will give any rider coming west from stations along the airport line an easy transfer to a ride going straight down Welton, into the heart of Downtown — rather than on to Union Station, which will serve far fewer Denver job commuters.
Because it’s on streets, with no grade separations, the Central Line already functions as a streetcar. RTD sources keep saying they’re looking for “funding” for the light rail project, which is much smaller than the heavy rail projects being built to the airport, to the north and the west suburbs.
Finishing the Central Line — RTD’s very first “demonstration” line — has dragged on for years, while the agency hesitates to make it successful, recently describing the planned Downtown connector as a “one-car” service, operating every quarter-hour, in concert with the heavy-rail line coming from the airport. A one-car connector will be jammed with commuters, who won’t like it.
Why such a timid commitment to the Central Line? Is RTD reluctant to get into the streetcar business, preferring to leave it to the City of Denver to pay for streetcars? Do RTD and the City of Denver have different rail transit agendas?
It’s time for Infill readers — who will quibble over every architectural detail of a building — to get past the “gee whiz” mentality over urban rail transit in Denver, and start asking what’s actually being planned, and what we’re getting for our money.
Unfortunately transit doesn’t have much of an advocacy force in Denver. It’s not nearly as glamorous as bike lanes even though far more people ride the bus. I say this as someone who bikes to work everyday.
RTD cannot legally start construction on a line until they have funding for it. They have talked about switching to a streetcar for the D line downtown (I haven’t seen where the D line LRT would stop and the streetcar would start). Why they didn’t do this from the get go, I don’t know, streetcars are certainly cheaper than LRT, the only issue is needing the land to have a big enough station to switch between the two and for them to be able to switch tracks to head back from which they came.
The next project that hasn’t started construction but has funding is the South East Extension. The emphasis on the suburbs of the metro area continues.
Denver’s transit agenda is RTD’s agenda, which is to complete the commuter rail network- not intracity transit. The city has been extremely lacking in any kind of transit planning and it shows with the lack of progress on transit improvements in Denver proper.
Fortunately the City Council and the city are pushing to change this, but we’re still in the planning stage. We’ll see what comes out later this year.
Thank you for this update I was curious what was going on. One other reason for the delay for the Central line is criticism that FastTracks has been too Denver focused. The residences of North of Denver have been waiting a very long time for rail to come to them. And it looks like Longmont residence will be waiting even longer. If Denver finishes Central line and before the rail north people will be very angry.
I would hardly say that FasTracks has been too ‘Denver focused’; if anything it has been too Denver suburban focused. That is not surprising since RTD is focused on the region, not on the city proper. The reason that the SE extension is being built is that Lone Tree was willing to front some extra money (they are wealthier) and the extension is not that expensive relative to the Northwest rail line. Given the restrictions placed on the NW rail buy the railroads, it makes it difficult for that line to by cost effective given the current population density. I expect that will change in the future. Denver, the city, could finish the Central line if it, the city, was willing to front some extra money to do so. But overall Denver, the city, is shortchanged by FasTracks. It is the largest and densest of the larger cities in the region and the central and most densest neighborhoods in the Denver are not served by any sort of rail transit. Changing that or at least increasing the frequencies of the bus lines that run in the city would do a lot to increase RTD ridership and make transit in Denver, the city, more effective and attractive.
The thing with B line is that RTD planned it with the certain contracts in terms of the prices of the right of way. The owner of right of way changed, the prices changed and the line became extremely expensive out of nowhere. Trust me, there will be a transportation bill funding that line sooner or later – I get that Boulder wants its line, but the conditions have changed beyond RTD’s control and that needs to be acknowledged. RTD has done shitloads with FasTracks and we got a lot of rail for a decent price.
The idea of a street car between the 38th & Blake Station and 30th & Downing Station has always baffled me. Who wants to have to transfer trains from the commuter rail to a streetcar only to have to transfer again to light rail in a few blocks?
By no means am I discounting steetcars in Denver, because I am a huge advocate; I simply just don’t think Downing is the street for them (Speer and/or Broadway on the other hand, definitely).
They should simply continue the central light rail line on to 38th & Blake like was always planned. I know the issue seems to stem from the lack of space on Downing for dedicated light rail in addition to vehicular traffic, but to me the solution is simple: Make Downing a one-way street southbound with a lane for light rail and a lane for cars (there could also be space for a bike lane or street parking, I believe) and route the northbound traffic one block east onto Marion Street which would have room for a lane for cars, potentially a lane for light rail (if RTD wanted to have 2 lines for the light rail in each direction so they could run more trains on what will certainly become a more highly traversed line), and also room for a bike lane or street parking. This seems most logical to me particularly since the Downing and Marion connection already exists about three blocks south of the 30th & Downing Station (possibly this was the setup in the past and has been changed, but I’m not sure exactly) and the one-way format for Downing and Marion is already in place about six blocks north of the 30th & Downing station. Problem solved and now commuters can easily get to their offices downtown from the east rail line with one easy transfer of trains at 38th & Blake while simultaneously not having to worry about Union Station, the 16th Street Mall Ride, etc.
Of course funding is always an issue, but this idea wouldn’t involve any expensive right-of-way acquisition just like the streetcar plan wouldn’t so it would really just be finishing the line as planned originally. The only protests I can see would be from residents of Marion Street who would all of a sudden have more traffic on their street and potentially less parking, but I digress.
Just my 2 cents worth on the Central Rail line expansion, I guess.
The plan is for the “streetcar” to be a short light rail train. And for it to loop around the entire downtown light rail loop before returning.
At least that was the last plan I saw.