Mile High Transit Success

At a Glance

  • Client(s)
  • Regional Transportation District (RTD)
  • Work Performed By
  • LTK Denver
  • Project Contact
  • Chris Reitter, Senior Vice President
  • Project Description
  • FasTracks by Denver's RTD includes six new corridors and three extensions, a planned 120 miles of track and 50 new stations.
  • Project Duration
  • 2005 - present
  • Project Cost
  • $6 billion

The Challenge

From nothing to something, Denver's mixed light and commuter rail system serves a growing population. 

In 2004, voters in the Denver area approved a second long-range, ambitious transit program known as FasTracks. The sheer scale and longevity of the program, the extent of concurrent projects in various phases of work, and the likelihood of multiple transit modes and multiple concurrent project delivery processes presented significant challenges to the industry and the consultants who strove to undertake the work. That magnitude also meant that projects had to occur simultaneously and across all stages of development, from preliminary engineering to start-up, and that there be a certain continuity, or common basis, from project to project.

Successful implementation of a mega-project such as FasTracks also required the adoption of the right design philosophy — one based on a keen perception of project goals, knowledge of the most appropriate technologies, and preferences of the client. Our role with RTD has not been an “arm’s length” relationship; we have worked as an extension of staff from design through construction and start-up.

Our Continued Commitment

Denver shares a transit history common with many urban areas in the United States: a large streetcar system in the early 20th century that was removed in the 1950s only to be revived as light rail in the 1990s. Denver RTD opened its 5.3-mile starter light rail line in 1994, soon followed by an extension to Littleton and a downtown routing. Around 2000, a major transportation expansion project (T-REX) was started that included significant freeway improvements and a 19-mile light rail line.

The Solutions

LTK had to provide a full suite of systems engineering services while concurrently managing multiple systems elements, multiple modes, multiple project phases, and multiple corridors. The demanding workload led to LTK’s decision to form Front Range Systems Consultant (FRSC), a joint venture with an experienced, complementary partner.

A major issue early in the FasTracks program was the choice of the type of service. Federal requirements regarding joint use operation of passenger rail and freight rail forced difficult modal evaluations: RTD considered Light Rail, 25 kVac Commuter Rail, Diesel hauled Commuter Rail, and Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). LTK assisted RTD with numerous technology assessments, comparative analyses, and traction power studies. We had the skills to examine all these modes and to help RTD reach the right decision for each corridor. It chose light rail for West Corridor, I225, and other extensions south of downtown, and 25 kVac commuter rail for approximately 50 miles of new track across four major corridors, including the East Line to the Denver International Airport.  This selection was unique in that no new 25 kVac rail had been installed in the U.S. for decades.


The Results

Since 2006, the FasTracks program has transformed Denver Union Station into a regional transportation hub and has added (or is about to complete) two light rail lines, three new commuter rail lines, a commuter rail extension — for a total of 60+ miles of double track and 57 stations — and 66 commuter rail vehicles and 55 light rail vehicles.  The system has more than doubled in scale. There are plans for three light rail extensions, further commuter rail extensions, and a new non-electric, diesel multiple unit line.

Did You Know?

  • While common in many parts of the world, the Denver commuter rail system is the first completely new 25 kVac system in the United States
  • The Eagle P3 project is the largest single urban rail project in the western U.S.
  • Denver’s 16th Street Mall is the only bus-only mall in the downtown of a major urban area in the U.S.
  • RTD operates its electric rail vehicles at the highest elevation of any large urban area in the U.S.