The N Line , also known as the North Metro Rail Line during construction, [3] is a commuter rail line which is part of the commuter and light rail system operated by the Regional Transportation District (RTD) in the Denver Metropolitan Area in Colorado . The first 13 miles (21 km) from downtown Denver to 124th Avenue in Thornton is under construction as part of the FasTracks expansion plan. When fully built out the line will be 18.5 miles (29.8 km) long and pass through Denver, Commerce City , Northglenn , and Thornton . [4] The N Line will have Colorado's longest bridge at 9,533 feet called the Skyway Bridge. [5]

History

The possibilities and studies for a rail line in the North Metropolitan Denver have existed since the opening of the Light Rail Central Corridor in 1994. In the 2004 election year voters approved the North Metro Corridor as part of the RTD FasTracks expansion plan. In September 2006 the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was started, with completion in late 2010, and gaining approval by the Federal Transit Administration in April 2011. [6] A preexisting railroad right-of-way for the line was purchased in 2009. Contract to build the North Metro Rail line to 124th Avenue was awarded to Graham, Balfour Beatty, Hamon Constructors (GBBH) November 2013 with notice to proceed in December 2013. [7] The GBBH contract included an option that when funding available RTD can exercise option to build the line to 162nd Avenue. Groundbreaking of the N Line's construction occurred March 20, 2014 [8] with expected completion in 2018. The GBBH joint Venture is operating under the name: Regional Rail Partners (RRP). [9]

Route

The N Line's southern terminus is at Union Station in Denver . It runs mostly on a preexisting railroad right-of-way to its northern terminus at Eastlake / 124th Station. [10] [11] [12] A notable exception to using the existing railroad right-of-way is the RTD designated "Skyway Bridge" whose path takes it over and past several obstacles: it will cross the BNSF Railway railroad tracks, Brighton Boulevard, a Union Pacific Railroad spur track, the Farmers Reservoir and Irrigation Company (FRICO) Ditch, the Metro Waste Water Plant and Suncor oil processing site, Sand Creek , and Interstate 270 . [5]

While under construction the N line route can be described as leaving Union Station following the Union Pacific / BNSF corridor, near Coors Field it crosses over the rail yards and twice the South Platte River continuing northeast into the 48th and Brighton / National Western Center station located near the National Western Stock Show complex. The northeasterly line near Riverside Cemetery then enters the Skyway Bridge to begin a northern path returning to grade level near the Commerce City/ 72nd station following again the former rail right of way into the station. From there it passes under Interstate 76 and Colorado State Highway 224 , then again over the South Platte River following a sightly northwest path north until the Original Thornton / 88th station. Then on a slight northeast path the line near 100th Avenue curves northwest into the Thornton Crossroads / 104th station. On a northwest path the line continues until near East 112th Avenue where in travels north into the Northglenn / 112th station. On a northward path the line arrives at Eastlake / 124th station, the site of a historic grain elevator and Eastlake, Colorado .

Stations

Name Opening Year Interchange Municipality park-n-Ride? Status
N Line (Union Station - Thornton)
Union Station/Lower Downtown (LoDo)/Coors Field/16th Street Mall 2014 A , B , & G Lines
C , E , & W Lines
Amtrak
FREE MallRide ( 16th St )
Denver No Open
48th & Brighton / National Western Center 2018 None Denver Yes Under Construction
Commerce City / 72nd 2018 None Commerce City Yes Under Construction
Original Thornton / 88th 2018 None Thornton Yes Under Construction
Thornton Crossroads / 104th 2018 None Thornton Yes Under Construction
Northglenn / 112th 2018 None Northglenn Yes Under Construction
Eastlake / 124th 2018 None Thornton Yes Under Construction
York / 144th 2042 None Thornton Yes Proposed
North Thornton / Hwy 7 2042 None Thornton Yes Proposed

FasTracks

In 2004 Colorado voters approved FasTracks , a multibillion-dollar public transportation expansion plan. In 2009 RTD paid $117 million to purchase the right-of-way from Union Pacific in preparation for the build out of the North Metro rail line. However, with the global recession of 2009 , the North Metro Corridor became a victim of financial setbacks and it was feared that the line would not be built until 2044. RTD was able to avoid further delaying the construction of the line when it accepted an unsolicited offer in 2013 to build out the full line in two stages. The first stage will build the line to the 124th Avenue Station with an opening in 2018, while the second stage to North Thornton / Hwy 7 Station will commence when projected ridership makes economic sense. [13]