Denver will see RTD N Line service start on Sept. 21

June 24, 2020
The N Line is the first electrified commuter rail line that RTD will operate.

Denver residents will have 13 miles of new rail line to travel on starting Sept. 21 when the Regional Transportation District (RTD) begins service on the N Line, an electrified commuter rail route that connects Denver north to Thornton with six stations.  

The project broke ground in March 2014 and is part of RTD’s 2004 voter-approved FasTracks Program that has added 58.5 miles of light-rail track and 40 miles of commuter rail track, as well as bus rapid transit service and intermodal connections at Union Station to Denver and its surrounding areas.

News of the opening date for the N Line came from RTD Chief Executive Officer and General Manager Paul Ballard at the June 23 meeting of the RTD Board of Directors. 

“Our efforts to open this line have continued even during the pandemic,” Ballard said. “I am confident opening the new line will play a key role in encouraging local recovery and continued growth in the north metro suburbs.”

Plans for the N Line call for a future extension to North Adams County that will add 5.5 miles of track and two stations to the route. RTD says the extension will progress as funds become available.

The electrified commuter rail line was constructed through a design-build contract that was awarded to Regional Rail Partners (RRP) – a joint venture of Balfour Beatty Infrastructure Inc. and Graham Contracting. The relationship between RRP and RTD was not smooth with project delays leading to lawsuits, which eventually cost RTD a $30-million settlement. Further delays led RTD to consider issuing a Notice of Default against RRP in February.

Heather McKillop, who was serving as RTD’s acting interim general manager and CEO in February said, “While we’ve had some challenges on this project, it’s time to get it done and opened to the public.” 

Contentious relationship with its contractor aside, the opening of the N Line will mark two “firsts” for RTD in that it is the first electrified commuter rail line the agency will operate. RTD currently maintains and operates its light rail and bus service, while Denver Transit Partners operates the region’s University of Colorado A Line to Denver International Airport; the B Line to Westminster; and the G Line to Adams County, Arvada and Wheat Ridge. 

The N Line is also the first new rail line to have positive train control (PTC) built into it from the ground up. Quiet zones are expected to be in place throughout the line when it opens. Train horns will still be used in emergency situations if maintenance workers, pedestrians or vehicles are on or near the tracks; if there are issues with gate timing at any of the N Line's six crossings; or if a train must use automatic train control (ATC) instead of PTC.

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Group Editorial Director

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine and group editorial director of the Infrastructure and Aviation Group at Endeavor Business Media. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the editorial direction of the group and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.