RTD N Line Opening Moves to Later in 2020

The Regional Transportation District’s commuter rail line through the northern suburbs, the N Line, will likely open in May or August of 2020, rather than the first quarter of the year as previously planned, RTD General Manager and CEO Dave Genova told the agency’s Board on Tuesday, Sept. 24.

Construction of key elements is still underway, with extensive testing also required, and RTD must follow mandated labor scheduling windows when new services like the N Line open, agency leaders told the Board.

May or August of 2020 would be the first months available to coordinate service change needs with the N Line.

RTD officials said they understand that riders in the communities north of Denver are eager to see rail service begin, after recent agency openings of the G Line to the northwest suburbs and an extension of the E, F and R Lines through Lone Tree.

“We know this is frustrating for future passengers to hear, and we share their urgency in getting the N Line running for the public as safely and swiftly as possible,” said Chuck Culig, RTD engineering project manager for the N Line. “We are working closely with the construction contractor and will keep our stakeholders and civic leaders updated as often as we can.”

The 13-mile section of the N Line under construction is being built by Regional Rail Partners, a private joint venture of Balfour Beatty Infrastructure Inc. and Graham. The currently funded section is an electrified commuter rail line from Denver Union Station to the Eastlake-124th Station in Thornton. When construction and testing are complete, RRP will turn over the line to RTD for operation.

The entire 18.5-mile N Line is part of FasTracks, RTD’s 2004 voter-approved, multibillion-dollar transit expansion plan for the metro Denver region.

A Sept. 6 incident on the overhead equipment that supplies electricity to vehicles interrupted testing and prompted a full review of the system. That assessment has been completed, and testing has resumed.

While trains are running on the line for testing, construction continues on station platforms, Park-n-Rides and other support systems. Like all new RTD lines, the N Line will also run on federally mandated positive train control (PTC), an important safety measure that helps avoid train collisions and unsafe speeds.

RTD is currently training operators for the N Line. Opening of the line must be carefully coordinated with connecting buses and trains, all of which affect staffing requirements already challenged by a tough metro Denver recruitment environment.