Downtown Rail Reconstruction Project

After more than 30 years, RTD is investing in its oldest rail infrastructure to ensure the long-term integrity of the network. Light rail service began in Denver on October 7, 1994, with 5.3 miles of track connecting 30th and Downing to Interstate 25. Much of today’s downtown track infrastructure, commonly referred to as the Downtown Loop, has been in place since the line was first constructed. This section of track has expanded over the years to now serve 10 rail stations on the D, H and L lines, with street-level trains operating adjacent to pedestrians and vehicular traffic.

RTD is doing a full-depth reconstruction of this section of rail to improve safety and mobility, address deteriorating transit infrastructure and extend the design life of the agency’s key transportation assets.

Downtown Rail Reconstruction Project Overview

The near-term work will occur in four phases, with the first phase commencing in May 2024, focusing on five segments of track at street intersections in the Downtown Loop. Phases two through four of the approximately $152 million-dollar, full-depth reconstruction project will occur in 2025.

This major reconstruction project is the first of its kind in RTD’s history. Between 2012 and 2023, RTD undertook 17 isolated projects in the central corridor to replace sections of curved rail, switches, crossings, signals and other rail infrastructure. The near-term project will leverage previous work done by RTD with time-specific closures to minimize the inconvenience to customers.

Phase 1: May – September 2024

Five at-grade rail and street intersections will be reconstructed in the project’s first phase, located at 15th and Stout, 17th and Stout, 15th and California, 17th and California and Broadway and Welton.

The five impacted intersections will not be reconstructed simultaneously. Instead, RTD will conduct the work in a manner that accounts for impacts to street traffic and has been closely working with the City and County of Denver to discuss potential street closures and develop traffic detour plans. During the project, vehicular traffic in the area may be merged to one lane or rerouted around the intersections for limited periods of time.

Phase 1 Impacts to Service

Beginning May 26, all D and H line trains will be rerouted to Denver Union Station, and L Line service, which connects 30th•Downing Station to the downtown loop, will be suspended. No light rail service will operate in RTD’s central corridor through September 2024. Following completion of the project’s first phase in September, crews will pause the reconstruction work until 2025, and all light rail services will resume normal operations.

RTD’s bus routes that operate along 15th and 17th streets may also be temporarily impacted during the project, and the agency is working to limit any detours in the downtown area.

With the D and H lines rerouting to Denver Union Station, RTD is planning to temporarily reintroduce its Free MetroRide service, which will operate along 18th and 19th streets. Both the Free MallRide and MetroRide routes provide multiple stops between Union Station and Civic Center Station. More information about RTD’s May 2024 service changes is available online.

Light Rail Impacts
LineMay 2024 Service ChangesService Span (Sun. - Thurs.)Service Span (Fri. and Sat.)Notes
DDetoured to Denver Union Station, Service span adjustment5 a.m. – midnight5 a.m. – 2 a.m.Temporary detour
EOne-hour headways (Coping Panels Project), Service span adjustment5 a.m. – midnight5 a.m. – 2 a.m.Temporary headways
HOne-hour headways (Coping Panels Project), Detoured to Denver Union Station (Downtown Rail Project), Service span adjustment5 a.m. – midnight5 a.m. – 2 a.m.Temporary detour and headways
LService suspended––––––Temporary suspension of light rail service Route 43 is an alternative
ROn-time performance schedule adjustment, Service span adjustment5 a.m. – midnight5 a.m. – midnightNo adjustment to current headways
WService span adjustment4:30 a.m. – midnight5 a.m. – 2 a.m.No adjustment to current headways

Community Open Houses

Interested in learning more about the project? Join the RTD team at an upcoming open house.

Phase I - Five Intersections

California and 17th

Phases 2–4: 2025

The subsequent three phases of the project will begin in 2025, and work on each phase may simultaneously occur. The agency’s project team, comprising of staff and consultants, is in the process of developing comprehensive reconstruction plans for the latter phases, which include:


Phases 2-4 Impacts to Service

As the project progresses through these phases, bus routes and the D, H and L lines will be impacted at various times. In the same spirit as Phase 1, RTD is developing service plans to account for the work while coordinating with City and County of Denver to minimize impacts to vehicular and pedestrian traffic.


Additional Information

The Downtown Loop in Denver’s Central Business District is part of RTD’s inaugural light rail line and opened in October 1994. After nearly 30 years of continual service, several segments of track along the 5.3-mile corridor, which extends between I-25•Broadway and 30th•Downing stations, require a full-depth reconstruction. The full-depth reconstruction process involves removing all current rail infrastructure, concrete, ties and ballast. Crews will also address drains below the 30-year-old rail system before fully rebuilding each segment.

Customer Tools

Service Alerts

RTD encourages customers to sign up for Service Alerts to receive text and email notifications about future and real-time disruptions that impact specific bus routes, rail line, stop or station.

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Next Ride

Customers are also encouraged to use the Next Ride web app to plan trips, view active Service Alerts, and see bus and train locations in real time.

Access Next Ride Here

Customer Care

For additional route and schedule information, or questions on impacts to service, RTD’s Customer Care agents are available 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays, and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays by calling 303.299.6000. For Spanish, press 2. For assistance in all other languages, please tell the Information Specialist what language you speak and stay on the phone while they connect to an interpreter.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Downtown Rail Reconstruction Project?

The Downtown Rail Reconstruction Project features full-depth replacement of rail that has served RTD’s central downtown corridor for 30 years. This major construction initiative will improve safety and reliability on the light rail system.

Why is RTD undertaking the Downtown Rail Reconstruction Project now, especially while the 16th Street Mall project is underway?

Managing and maintaining assets in a state of good repair ensures the long-term integrity of the rail network for all individuals who entrust RTD to deliver them to their destinations. After more than 30 years, RTD is investing in its oldest rail infrastructure to ensure the long-term integrity of the network. The paved sections of track in the downtown loop are underneath concrete so the rails and ballast rock beneath the rails are more difficult to maintain. Years of increasing vehicular and train traffic, along with chemicals like deicing salts, have taken a toll on the downtown tracks, making this project a priority. RTD and Denver are working together to minimize impacts to customers and the public. The agencies are collaborating on best practices for maintaining access through the crossings while minimizing disruption for downtown businesses, transit customers and the public.

Between 2012 and 2023, RTD completed 17 repair and replacement projects at key intersections within the central corridor. This work prioritized curved rail, switches, and at-grade crossings. How is this project different?

This major reconstruction project is the first of its kind in RTD’s history. Previous rail-related construction projects were aimed at specific segment enhancements and repairs. For instance, during previous projects, RTD prioritized high-risk areas like switches and at-grade rail crossings, completing one or two projects per year. This multi-phased project will improve five intersections in downtown Denver that serve as at-grade crossings for D, H and L light rail lines. These intersections include 15th and Stout, 17th and Stout, 15th and California, 17th and California, and Broadway and Welton.

How will the Downtown Rail Reconstruction project affect travel in downtown?

Beginning May 26, all D and H line trains will be rerouted to Denver Union Station, and L Line service, which connects 30th•Downing Station to the downtown loop, will be suspended. No light rail service will operate in RTD’s central corridor through September 2024. RTD’s bus routes that operate along 15th and 17th streets may also be temporarily impacted during the project, and the agency is working to limit any detours in the downtown area. With the D and H lines rerouting to Denver Union Station, RTD is planning to temporarily reintroduce its Free MetroRide service, which will operate along 18th and 19th streets. Both the Free MallRide and MetroRide routes provide multiple stops between Union Station and Civic Center Station. RTD will also operate expanded service on the Route 0L from I-25/Broadway Station to central downtown via Civic Center Station to provide the option for customers not traveling to Lower Downtown.

What about accessibility during construction?

RTD is dedicated to providing safe and accessible services, preserving a reliable transit infrastructure, supporting previous investments, and extending design life of agency assets. The downtown area will remain accessible by transit during all phases of construction. Customers and the public will still have access to transit, businesses and downtown events during the construction project. RTD’s website and apps are the best ways for customers to plan a trip and reach their downtown destinations.

How will the construction impacts and service impacts be communicated to the public?

RTD is working with numerous downtown partners and the media to provide advanced information and communications about the Downtown Rail Reconstruction Project. In advance of the work, RTD will craft clear messages highlighting the benefits of the project and its impact to services by utilizing multiple communication channels and platforms. This includes in-system assets such as signage, community engagement and outreach, media relations, partner and stakeholder collaboration, web, digital, and social media. Project-specific materials and resources will be developed to explain the project details and support external engagement opportunities with customers, partners, and local stakeholders. This comprehensive no surprises approach aims to effectively manage expectations by informing and engaging customers and the community with consistent, accurate and timely communications while emphasizing the project’s long-term benefits. 

What alternatives are available for customers who currently utilize Colfax at Auraria Station to access Auraria campus?

During construction, all D and H line trains will be rerouted to Denver Union Station. While D and H trains will not service Colfax at Auraria Station during construction, three light rail lines(D, E andH) will serve Auraria West Station.

What are the impacts to traffic lanes and businesses adjacent to the construction sites? Will the project involve full closure of intersections? Will the project involve full closure of intersections?

The work will be sequenced such that not all intersections will be impacted at the same time. Vehicular traffic will still be able to travel through these areas while the work is underway. Yes, the work will require the full closure of 15th and 17thwhile the work in happening in those areas. Vehicular traffic will be detoured around these closures as efficiently as possible. It is RTD’s intent to complete the work at Broadway and Welton while maintaining 2 lanes of traffic on Broadway at all times, however, this is the intent and has not been confirmed. Access will be maintained to all businesses adjacent to the work areas at all times.

Why is RTD sending all the trains to Union Station, and not turning them around at the Convention Center?

Staff considered theoption of turning D and H line trains at the Convention Center. However, the staffing required to have switch tenders to support the Coping Panels Project and operate switches at the Convention Center, while also performing routine maintenance across the entire rail system, is not possible. RTD’s Operations Department also does not have the supervisory staff available to have a controller at Convention Center to monitor train movement in that area. Additionally, there are people power limitations in the Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) group to support and monitor the Coping Panels Project and normal train operations across RTD’s entire light rail system.

What are the main impacts to RTD service during the downtown rail work?

Beginning May 26, all D and H line trains will be rerouted to Denver Union Station, and L Line service, which connects 30th•Downing Station to the downtown loop, will be suspended. No light rail service will operate in RTD’s central corridor through September 2024. Following completion of the project’s first phase in September, crews will pause reconstruction work until 2025, and all light rail services will resume normal operations.

RTD’s bus routes that operate along 15th and 17th streets may also be temporarily impacted during the project, and the agency is working to limit any detours in the downtown area. Also, with the D and H lines rerouting to Denver Union Station, RTD is planning to temporarily reintroduce its Free MetroRide service, which will operate along 18th and 19th streets. Both the Free MallRide and MetroRide routes provide multiple stops between Union Station and Civic Center Station. In addition, RTD will introduce all-day service through September 2024 on the Route 0L South Broadway Limited bus to reduce the impact of the Downtown Rail Reconstruction Project on customers using light rail. For detailed information on service information related to the Downtown Rail Project ,click here. To see all final May 2024 service changes for rail and bus service, click here.

Will the H and D lines stop at Auraria West this summer?

Three light rail lines (D, E and H lines) plus the Platte Valley FlexRide will serve Auraria West during the downtown work. L Line service, which connects 30th•Downing Station to the downtown loop, will be suspended and no light rail service will operate in RTD’s central corridor through September 2024.

What services will be available at Colfax at Auraria Station this summer?

RTD is investigating the option to expand the Platte Valley FlexRide to serve the Colfax at Auraria Station this summer. Bus Route 16 also serves the Colfax at Auraria Station.

Downtown Rail Reconstruction B-Roll

Resources

  1. Downtown Rail Resources
  2. See Previous Downtown Rail Project Photos Here

Partner Resources

  1. Partner Toolkit - English
  2. Partner Toolkit - Spanish
  3. PIO Briefing
  4. Watch the PIO Briefing Meeting Here
  5. Community Partner Briefing Presentation

Project Maps

Historic Photos