Denver RTD's downtown light-rail reconstruction project to begin in May

Feb. 29, 2024
In the first phase of Denver RTD's reconstruction project, at-grade rail and street intersections will be reconstructed on 15th and Stout St., 17th and Stout St., 15th and California St., 17th and California St. and Broadway and Welton Street.
The Denver Regional Transportation District (RTD) has revealed plans for a multi-phased project in downtown Denver, Colo., to reconstruct miles of light-rail track. In the first phase of the approximately $152 million, full-depth reconstruction project, the focus will be centered around five segments of at-grade rail and street intersections in the Downtown Loop.  
The Downtown Loop in Denver’s Central Business District, a part of Denver RTD’s inaugural light-rail line, was opened in October 1994. Denver RTD notes that after years of continual service, several segments of track along the 5.3-mile corridor, which extends between I-25 Broadway and 30th Downing stations, now require a full-depth reconstruction. The project will involve the removal of all current rail infrastructure, concrete, rail ties and ballasts. Crews will also address drains below the 30-year-old rail system before fully rebuilding each segment. 
Between 2012 and 2023, Denver RTD had undertaken 17 isolated projects in the central corridor. The projects worked to replace sections of curved rail, switches, crossings, signals and other rail infrastructure. This latest project will build on the previous work done by Denver RTD, with time-specific closures to minimize inconvenience to customers. 
Effective May 26, all D and H Line trains will reroute to Denver Union Station and the L Line service, which connects 30th Downing Station to the Downtown Loop, will be suspended. Light-rail services in Denver RTD’s central corridor will be put on pause through September 2024. 
All reconstruction work will be put on pause following completion of the project’s first phase in September and all light-rail services will resume normal operations. The reconstruction work will pick up again in 2025. 
“Maintaining Denver RTD’s assets and infrastructure is essential to preserving the region’s previous investments in its mass transportation system,” said Denver RTD General Manager and CEO Debra A. Johnson. “Managing and maintaining assets in a state of good repair ensures the long-term integrity of the rail network for all individuals who entrust Denver RTD to deliver them to their destinations.” 
The five impacted intersections will not be reconstructed at the same time. Denver RTD 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. 
Denver RTD’s bus routes that operate along 15th and 17th St.'s may also be temporarily impacted during the reconstruction project but the agency is working to limit any detours in the downtown area. With light-rail trains rerouting to Denver Union Station, Denver RTD is planning to temporarily reintroduce its Free MetroRide service, which operates along 18th and 19th St.'s. Both the Free MallRide and MetroRide routes provide multiple stops between Denver Union Station and Civic Center Station. 
The project will relaunch in three subsequent phases in 2025, with the possibility of overlap of work on each phase. The agency’s project team, comprising staff and consultants, is in the process of developing comprehensive reconstruction plans for the project phases, which includes: 
  • Phase Two: Midblock Reconstruction in Downtown Loop
  • Phase Three: Colfax Avenue Alignment Reconstruction
  • Phase Four: Welton Street Corridor 
During the Denver RTD Board of Directors’ meeting on Feb. 27, staff outlined the four near-term phases of the project and the agency’s plans to reduce the impact on customers. 
Staff will begin implementing a comprehensive communications and outreach plan at the beginning of March, which will help ensure customers and stakeholders are aware of potential impacts to services and planned detours. Denver RTD will also host a series of virtual and in-person community meetings, both in English and Spanish, near impacted light-rail lines.
“The agency is ensuring that its 30-year-old system continues to provide reliable service for at least 30 more years and beyond,” Johnson said.