Denver RTD, WSP USA celebrate opening of new Colorado rail extension

Written by Kyra Senese, managing editor
Denver RTD
Photo: Denver RTD

WSP USA, an engineering and professional services consulting firm, celebrated on May 17 the opening of the Denver Regional Transportation District’s (RTD) Southeast Rail Extension, which stretches 2.3 miles from Lincoln Station to RidgeGate Parkway in Lone Tree, Colo.

“The completed project plays an important role in addressing the transportation needs of the region’s rapidly growing community,” said Gregory Kelly, president and CEO of WSP USA. “We’re proud of our multi-year role in the completion of this rail extension.”

As a subcontractor, officials said WSP USA provided civil engineering and rail systems engineering design and support for the project.

“One of the biggest goals of the project was to improve access to transportation for all residents,” Kelly said. “The improved stations are all within walking distance of more than 500 acres of new mixed-use, commercial and residential developments.”

The line is intended to bring commuters from RidgeGate Station on the new R Line through Aurora, Colo., to Peoria Station. The line then connects to the commuter train at Denver International Airport.

The extension also includes the addition of three new stations at Sky Ridge Avenue, the future Lone Tree City Center and an end-of-line station at RidgeGate Parkway with 1,300 parking spaces, WSP USA said in a statement. The project added three bridges that will carry light-rail trains across Lincoln Avenue, I-25 and RidgeGate Parkway, as well.

The extension is part of RTD’s FasTracks Program, a transit expansion plan to build 122 miles of new commuter rail and light rail, 18 miles of bus rapid transit, 21,000 new parking spaces at light rail and bus stations and enhance bus service across an eight-county region, officials explained.

“WSP has been fortunate to have been on teams for three other RTD FasTracks projects,” said Karen Creamer, a WSP project manager. “We were able to leverage the experience and the positive relationships we developed over these projects.”

A key aspect of the project, and one of the biggest challenges officials say was posed by the extension, was the tie-in with the rails at the existing Lincoln Station.

“The tie-in with the train control and traction electrification system was critical and had to be done efficiently over a series of short-term system shutdowns so that it did not have an impact on service,” Creamer said.

During the closure, crews worked 24/7 for nine days to remove about 1,600 feet of existing track and rail, as well as Overhead Contact System poles and wires, conduit and other utilities, before rebuilding the line from the ground up, creating a completely reconfigured track.

The work was completed on schedule, allowing both stations to open on time for Monday morning service.

Representatives said the challenge was expected and the WSP systems team coordinated closely with the owner and contractor to develop an efficient phasing plan.

“Every challenge presented us with an opportunity to work together and find solutions that produced exceptional results,” Creamer said. “This opening reminds us of the positive impact that our hard work is going to have on the community.”

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