RTD studies options for rail to Longmont

DENVER – Two new possible commuter rail routes to extend the FasTracks North Metro Line to Longmont are being studied by the Regional Transportation District.

In the $2 million Northwest Area Mobility Study, one route could follow Interstate 25 north to State Highway 119 and west to Longmont, RTD said in a press statement, following a meeting with representatives from RTD and communities along the line.

The other route generally follows Weld County Road 7 north to State Highway 119 and west to Longmont, RTD said.

The North Metro Line currently is planned to end at 162nd Avenue and Colorado Boulevard. The study is expected to focus on how extending the North Metro Line to Longmont compares with serving Longmont on the approved Northwest Rail Line.

“This marks an important first milestone in our commitment to collaborate in moving FasTracks forward in the Northwest area,” RTD’s board chairwoman Lorraine Anderson said in the press statement. “We still have a number of challenging decisions to make in this study, but working together, I am confident we can find success.”

The original FasTracks Northwest Rail Line plan includes a 41-mile northwest commuter-rail line running from downtown Denver along the U.S. Highway 36 corridor, then north along the eastern edge of Boulder and northeast to Longmont along existing train tracks which parallel the Diagonal Highway.

When the FasTracks tax issue first went to voters in 2004, Burlington Northern-Santa Fe Railway representatives told RTD the cost for using its tracks between Westminster and Longmont would be around $66 million. However, at a meeting in October 2011 in Chicago, the railroad company told RTD it wanted $535 million.

The news, coupled with the recent economic slump, pushed RTD’s timeline for completion of the line from 2016 back to 2044, and the total estimated cost from $461 million to $1.7 billion.

Any new route plan would likely require approval by voters in the eight-county Regional Transportation District.

The study is expected to be complete some time in 2014.

In the meantime, construction continues on the first segment of the Northwest Rail Line near the site of the future Westminster Station in the 6900 block of Grove Street, near 71st Avenue and Lowell Boulevard. That 6.2-mile segment of the Northwest Line from Denver Union Station to south Westminster is scheduled to be completed in 2016.

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