Too many curves? Officials wonder if track design for RTD line is a hazard

Written by RT&S Staff
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RTD officials insist the R Line is safe despite two derailments in the last four years.

The intersection of South Sable Boulevard and East Exposition Avenue in Aurora, Colo., is more like a trip wire for RTD train operators.

It has been the spot of two derailments over the last four years, with the last one coming a few weeks ago. When the train left the tracks at that spot back in 2019 the train operator was charged with speeding. RTD has not completed its investigation with the latest accident, but train operators and officials believe the problem could be with the track.

The R Line is full of a series of turns that train operators admit are not always easy to handle. In fact, Aurora city leaders insisted that the line make certain curves to better serve two areas: the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus and Aurora’s Town Center area. A 2001 study also looked at separating the track from nearby street traffic, but the design option was deemed too expensive.

RTD and others insist the track line is safe, and the investigation following the 2019 crash indicated the chance of another derailment is remote at best. Another accident, however, did in fact happen. Train operators say it can be difficult to come off straightaways and then slow down for the curves. Dealing with obstacles involved when being mixed in with street traffic make the task tricky.

An enhanced automatic train control system also was recommended in 2019, but RTD dismissed it because of the cost, which was $12 million to $15 million.

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